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Swiss explore renewal of ‘secret deal’ with China

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The ‘secret agreement’, as the NZZ am Sonntag calls it, has been implemented just once to date. © Keystone / Ennio Leanza

Swiss authorities want to renew a discreet agreement with China, signed in 2015, which allows officials from Beijing to enter the country and question Chinese citizens residing here illegally.

The NZZ am Sonntag reports that the agreement, which was never officially published, expires in December this year, and that talks with the Chinese are ongoing to renew it.

An official from the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) confirmed to the newspaper that contact has been made with Beijing about the renewal. As for the non-publication in 2015, this was due to it being an “administrative agreement”, SEM claims.

The agreement allows Chinese officials to enter Switzerland for a period of two weeks – without official status – in order to investigate Chinese citizens found to be staying illegally in the Alpine Nation. Once identified, these people can be deported in collaboration with SEM.

Individuals affected by the agreement include rejected asylum seekers, illegal travellers, and those without identity papers.

The uncertain status of these people has led to fears and reactions from politicians and rights groups.

Fabian Molina, a social democrat parliamentarian, told the NZZ am Sonntag that the agreement with China was “absolutely unacceptable” and that it should not be renewed.

Though a member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Molina had never heard of the agreement; he plans to raise it, as does Green politician Sibel Arslan, at the next committee meeting tomorrow.

SEM says the agreement has been implemented just once to date, when a Chinese delegation came to Switzerland in 2016, leading to the deportation of 13 individuals, including four asylum seekers.

SEM spokesman Daniel Bach told the Keystone-SDA news agency on Sunday that Tibetan and Uighur asylum seekers are not affected by the agreement and would not be sent back to China due to the threat of persecution they face.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR