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Swiss parliament backs plan to deport rejected Eritrean refugees

beat jans
Justice Minister Beat Jans argued against the idea, but was ignored by a majority of parliamentarians. Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Both chambers of parliament have approved an idea to conclude a transit agreement with a third country – as yet undefined – for the return of rejected Eritrean asylum seekers.

Eritreans cannot be forced to return to their country, as authorities there categorically refuse such repatriation. This practice has been going on for many years and affects all European countries.

This situation is unacceptable and undermines the credibility of the Swiss asylum system, said Christian Wasserfallen from the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party on Monday. He said everything possible must be done to ensure that the situation, if not completely unblocked, can at least move in the right direction.

+ More on the Swiss debate about deporting Eritrean refugees

The motion by Wasserfallen’s party colleague Petra Gössi calls for Switzerland to conclude a transit agreement with a third country to temporarily send rejected Eritrean asylum seekers there. The Swiss government is thus now tasked with identifying such a country that would be willing to conclude such a transit agreement, as Switzerland tried to do with Senegal in 2002.

At that time, the agreement was to authorise the transit of asylum seekers for a period of three days. This time was to be used to identify them and to obtain an identity document from the consular representation of their country of origin in Senegal.

+ Why some Eritreans come to blows in Switzerland

The left and some centrists in parliament opposed the motion without success on Monday. They criticised the proposal as ineffective and likely very costly.

The government put forward the same argument. In the case of a transit agreement, it is likely that the Eritrean representation in the third country would refuse the request for an identity document, warned Justice Minister Beat Jans. The Eritrean applicants would therefore have to be readmitted once again to Switzerland.

Adapted from French by DeepL/dos

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