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Criminal foreigners Court rules an end to lifelong entry bans

Emotive: posters in favour of the deportation initiative

(Keystone)

Criminal foreigners may no longer be barred for life from entering Switzerland, even if they are dangerous, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court has ruled.

The Federal Office for Migration is no longer allowed to ban people indefinitely from coming into the country, the St Gallen-based courtexternal link has said in a ruling published on Friday. This changes the current practice and – paradoxically – partly arises from tougher legislation on criminal foreigners.

The decision is based around the case of a Bosnian national, who came to Switzerland in 2009 and, within 11 months, carried more than 30 counts of breaking and entering. This netted the man around CHF375,000 ($402,000) and caused CHF48,000-worth of damage. In 2011, he was given a three-year prison sentence and after serving two thirds of it, he was deported.

In 2012, the migration office handed down an indefinite refusal of entry to Switzerland.

The court, which hears appeals against decisions of federal authorities, said it agreed with the migration office that the man had shown great criminal energy and presented a big risk of reoffending. But the judges said  that in future only a limited entry ban could be imposed in such cases.

Deportation initiative

This partly has to do with a controversial deportation initiative, pushed by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, that was approved by voters in 2010. It demands the automatic deportation of convicted foreign criminals regardless of the seriousness of the offence.  Since then, refusals of entry have been fixed in the constitution at up to 15 years. Unlimited bans are thus no longer permitted.

Other reasons, judges said, were the European Union’s return directive, to which Switzerland has since signed up, and a ruling by the European Court, which both have affirmed limited entry bans.

This is the first time the Swiss court has considered the consequences of the deportation initiative and it pointed to the fact that the authorities had a certain flexibility:  between 15 years for serious offences and five years for lesser ones.

The Bosnian’s ban has been fixed at eight years as he has not been criminally active for a while and has family in Switzerland, the court decided.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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