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NGOs condemn plans to toughen asylum law

Some rejected asylum seekers rely on handouts

(Keystone)

A coalition of non-governmental organisations and churches has expressed concern about the government's plans to further tighten the asylum law.

Just weeks before parliament is due to debate the issue, the groups called on parliamentarians not to forget the country's humanitarian tradition.

Parliament will consider amendments to the asylum legislation, which include doubling pre-deportation detention and scrapping all welfare payments for rejected asylum seekers, in its autumn session.

At a joint media conference on Friday, the 20 organisations – including refugee and religious groups, as well as charities – called on parliament to pass a constitutional law that was in line with international human-rights legislation.

Beat Meiner from the Swiss Refugee Council said that the law's main task was to protect people from persecution.

But he said that the proposal to reject asylum seekers who are unable to show valid identity papers did not fulfil this criterion.

Some people were simply not able to produce such papers within the two to three days during which they are required to do so, said speakers.

Humanitarian grounds

Another bone of contention was the move to limit exceptions in the asylum process, which are usually made on humanitarian grounds. At present 23,000 people have been granted leave to stay in Switzerland without being given asylum.

According to Walter Schmid from the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare, these people are subject to ever-tightening regulations, making it difficult for them to find work and educate their children.

Delegates warned that excluding some people from social security – a move which has been in place for a year - had not led to more asylum seekers returning to their countries of origin.

They argued that the move had contributed to poverty and placed an increased burden on cantons, cities and private organisations.

The increase in time spent in pre-deportation detention was also questioned, with speakers calling it a "disproportional" measure.

The appeal comes a few days after a House of Representatives committee called for tougher measures to reduce criminal acts by asylum seekers.

The committee suggested further restricting asylum seekers' movements and possibly banning them from certain places when they first enter Switzerland.

Members want to see these measures added to the latest revision of the law.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Asylum requests 2004: 14,248
Cases processed: 19,157
Asylum granted: 1,555
Provisional admission: 4,198
Departures and forced returns: 19,730

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