Government increases video surveillance in asylum centres

The video recordings are intended not only to have a preventive effect, but also to provide evidence Keystone / Martin Schutt

Video surveillance will be expanded in federal asylum centres over the coming months, with more cameras being installed in exterior and interior areas of buildings. Not everyone agrees that this will improve security, however.

This content was published on May 17, 2021 - 09:53

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) hope the additional cameras will provide more security, said Reto Kormann, SEM deputy head of communications, in a reportExternal link by Swiss public radio, SRF, on Monday.

“On the one hand, we want more security in the outside areas so that no one enters who’s not allowed in. On the other hand, it’s also about the inside areas. In a collective accommodation there can be tensions, so we also have images available from there,” he said.

Last year, the SEM recorded more violent incidents in the country’s 14 permanent federal asylum centres than in 2019. The number of assaults rose from around 370 to around 490. Incidents in which security staff allegedly used violence against asylum seekers have also been a recent topic of discussion.

‘Doesn’t make sense’

Swiss Refugee Aid is sceptical about the SEM equating more security with more surveillance. “We don’t think a further tightening of the rigid control system in the federal asylum centres makes sense,” spokeswoman Eliane Engeler told SRF.

Engeler believes it would be better to provide asylum seekers with more social support, although she said that surveillance cameras could have benefits, for example in the entrance area.

Cameras are not installed everywhere, Kormann said. “Private rooms, the asylum seekers’ bedrooms, showers, lavatories as well as the offices of SEM staff and service providers commissioned by us are not monitored. In principle, video surveillance is possible in all other rooms,” he said.

The video recordings are intended not only to have a preventive effect, but also to provide evidence.

Changes in the Foreign Nationals Act which came into effect on April 1, 2020, mean the government can store the video and audio recordings for four months. In future, however, only law enforcement personnel, such as public prosecutors, will be allowed to evaluate the images.

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