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Handcuffs and Covid tests for deported migrants prompt criticism

Man handcuffed
The policy of restraining deportees differs according to each Swiss canton. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The continued use of restraints during forced deportations from Switzerland has again been criticised by a monitoring body. The rebuke coincides with government attempts to force Covid-19 tests for deportees and an ongoing probe into alleged violence at asylum centres.

Switzerland’s National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) noted 25 repatriation flights from the country last year. It found police procedure to be inconsistent among different cantons, particularly the use of handcuffs and other restraints.

Presenting its findings on ThursdayExternal link, the Commission called for action to standardise police strategy nationwide and demanded that restraints are not used purely on the basis of a psychiatric evaluation.

The Commission also found that there was little difference in the treatment of different categories of deportees, which define how much restraint is permitted.

Although some improvements have been made in the last year, the main thrust of the complaints are similar to those made last July.  

Obligatory test

In a separate development, the Swiss government is asking parliament to approve measures to force deported migrants into taking Covid-19 tests. This is to counter the problem of migrants effectively stopping their deportation by refusing to take tests.

The proposed measures, which has just been through a consultation phase, would last until the end of 2022 if approved. The government does not believe that a swab test would count as an invasive medical procedure.

Left-leaning political parties and refugee organisations say the measures would be a violation of human rights, while parties on the right say it would stop the asylum system from collapsing.

The treatment of refugees in Switzerland has been at the centre of controversy in recent months amid claims of abuses at asylum centres. In May, an independent investigation was launched to look into the allegations.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR