Pandemic forces Swiss to release would-be deportee

A higher court ruled that the man should be released. Pictured here: Zurich Airport prison for people awaiting deportation (file photo) © Keystone / Christian Beutler

A Swiss prison has released a man slated for deportation because the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible to say when he could be sent home.

This content was published on July 28, 2020 - 16:26

The authorities have been unable to verify the man’s identity; he is either from Morocco or Algeria. The State Secretariat for Migration had rejected his application for asylum.

After serving a 34-month prison sentence for robbery, theft and other offences, the man was taken into custody for deportation in October 2019. In addition to the prison sentence, the Zurich District Court also issued a nine-year expulsion order.

As Swiss authorities investigated the man’s origins, his deportation detention was extended. Then came the extraordinary situation caused by Covid-19.

No end in sight

In a ruling published on Tuesday, the Federal Court ordered that the man be released since he can’t be deported in the foreseeable future.

It noted that the man had already been in deportation custody for seven months when the Zurich court had decided to extend custody in late March – without knowing when there would be the opportunity to fly the man out.

According to migration law, detention pending deportation may last up to six months. If a detainee does not cooperate, it may be extended by a maximum of 12 more months.

The Federal Court ruling states that even if the man’s inability to prove his identity is awkward, he isn’t responsible for pandemic-related travel difficulties or the delay in waiting for foreign authorities to confirm his identity.

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