Authorities want to use social networks in asylum investigations

The Federal Administrative Court backed the authorities' use of social media to gather information on an asylum seeker. Keystone

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is looking at how it can use information from Facebook and other social networks to help inform asylum decisions, reports the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. 

This content was published on June 3, 2018 - 16:22

"From the information that asylum seekers publish on social networks, it may be possible to draw conclusions that may be of importance for the asylum procedure such as references to family relationships," SEM spokesperson Martin Reichlin told the newspaper. "The State Secretariat for Migration has therefore set up an internal working group to clarify whether, how and under what conditions publicly accessible information from social networks can and should be collected and used in the processing of asylum applications.” 

This follows the case of a Nigerian man who applied for asylum in Switzerland in December 2016, claiming he was being persecuted in his home country. However, he provided contradictory information about his identity, and so migration authorities investigated further. Thanks to photographs his wife had posted on Facebook, they discovered he had come to Switzerland not from Nigeria but from Spain, where he had lived with a different identity and run a shop. It was therefore decided to send him back to Spain. 

The asylum seeker's lawyer objected to the gathering of evidence on social media and lodged an appeal. But the Federal Administrative Court rejected it in December 2017, saying there was "no fault whatsoever that the State Secretariat for Migration bases its considerations of the matter on the results of the Facebook searches carried out”. 

The SEM is therefore now clarifying to what extent information from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks can be used to identify asylum seekers, reports NZZ am Sonntag.

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