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Switzerland to strengthen security at asylum centres

Asylum centre in Embrach, Switzerland
Tightened security measures follow complaints of violence at Swiss asylum centres. KEYSTONE/© KEYSTONE / CHRISTIAN BEUTLER

The Swiss government has sent proposals to parliament to strengthen security in asylum centres.

The move follows revelations about cases of violence in these centres.

In spring 2021, several media and NGOs reported a disproportionate use of force in asylum centers. Former federal judge Niklaus Oberholzer was then charged with leading an investigation.

+ UN calls for improvements at Swiss asylum centres

His report did not demonstrate any systematic use of violence, recalls the Federal Council in a press release. Fundamental rights and human rights are respected. The former judge, however, recommended various improvements.

The main missions of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) within the centres, such as accommodation and supervision of applicants, will now be regulated in law. The areas in which the SEM can use coercion or police measures to guarantee security and order will also be explicitly defined.

The law will notably provide for the possibility of placing a person in temporary detention for a period of two hours at most. The aim is to avoid significant material damage or endangering a person. This is a police measure and not a simple disciplinary measure.

The SEM may also order temporary disciplinary measures against an applicant who, through his or her behavior, disrupts the proper functioning of a centre or accommodation at an airport. The law now specifies that this also concerns threats to public security and order “in the immediate vicinity” of the centres.

The project also plans to add to the law a provision expressly aimed at the possibility of searching asylum seekers and their property. The search could target alcoholic drinks or pocket knives for example, as well as identity documents and means of proof crucial for the asylum procedure. Objects found during the search may be seized if necessary.

Several measures have already been implemented. A reporting service, responsible for collecting complaints and requests, has been set up. Conflict prevention officers have been hired. Since then, security incidents have declined significantly.

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

If you want to know more about how we work, have a look here, and if you have feedback on this news story please write to english@swissinfo.ch.

Translated from French by DeepL/mga

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