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Swiss halt asylum returns to Greece

The Federal Migration Office is to suspend the return of asylum seekers to Greece, examining cases in Switzerland instead, while returns to Sri Lanka will be extended.

The Swiss authorities said “the situation in Greece makes it necessary to modify the application of the Dublin procedure”, under which asylum seekers are routinely returned to their first country of entry in Europe.

The European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg on Friday ruled against Belgium for returning an asylum-seeker to Greece, despite the appalling situation in reception camps there.

Large numbers of refugees arrive by boat in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, which struggle to cope.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Migration Office confirmed to that the Swiss authorities had taken into consideration the decision of the Strasbourg court but said it had not influenced the timing of the Swiss move.

“We knew that the decision was coming but our decision is not based directly on the court ruling. It is based on the situation in Greece which we have been following for months with a view to drawing our own conclusions,” she said.

The Swiss Refugee Council along with other independent organisations have been condemning the catastrophic situation of asylum seekers in Greece for months.

Sweden was the first to halt returns to Greece in November last year, followed by Finland, Denmark and Germany.

In line with the majority of Dublin states, Switzerland suspended the transfer to Greece of vulnerable people, such as unaccompanied minors, families with young children and the elderly in February 2009.

In its update, the Migration Office added that the security situation in Sri Lanka had clearly improved so that rejected asylum seekers from the north and west of the country could again be sent back, with the exception of those from the troubled Vanni region.

From June 2011, the Migration Office will begin to review on a case by case basis the status of Sri Lankan asylum seekers  –  currently numbering 2,200 – granted provisional leave to remain in Switzerland.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR