Bern will keep returning asylum seekers to Italy

Under the Dublin agreement, asylum seeking families can be returned to the first country they claimed asylum in Keystone

This content was published on November 7, 2014 - 09:00 and agencies

Despite being told by the European Court of Human Rights that it could not send a family of asylum seekers back to Italy, Switzerland has said it will continue to send other families back there – as long as Italy can guarantee “child-appropriate accommodation”.

Mario Gattiker, director of the Federal Office for Migration, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Friday that Swiss officials were not interpreting the ruling like Denmark. The Scandinavian country has decided not to send any more asylum-seeking families back to Italy, a common point of entry into Europe for migrants.

Under the Dublin agreement, asylum seekers may be sent back to the place where they first lodged an asylum request.

Gattiker said the migration office had been in contact with Italy following the ruling. He said it was “possible that Italy will now not only tell us the region where asylum seekers returned from Switzerland will be sent to, but also the accommodation”.

It’s also possible, he said, that Italy could “provide a list of family-friendly accommodation” that Switzerland could review.

‘Worst case scenario’

When asked whether it would be pragmatic to review the cases of all asylum-seeking families in light of the ruling before sending them back to Italy, Gattiker said “this would undercut the Dublin system, which we don’t want”.

Though Gattiker admitted the Dublin system was “not perfect”, he said that if Switzerland stopped participating in it, the country would become “the replacement asylum country of Europe” – a “worst case” scenario.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has warned against reading too much into the European Court of Human Rights ruling, saying it doesn’t place the Dublin system in question.

The court said on Wednesday that Switzerland could not send an Afghan family back to Italy – their port of entry into Europe where they first lodged an asylum application – without having obtained individual guarantees from the Italian authorities that applicants would be properly looked after and the family kept together.


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