Ways to improve detainee treatment outlined

Flights deporting failed asylum seekers to their home countries need to be better prepared, says the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT).

This content was published on December 1, 2011 - 14:47 and agencies

Repatriation flights hit the headlines in March 2010, when a Nigerian deportee died at Zurich airport after being forcibly restrained. Although an autopsy found he suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition, all deportation flights were temporarily halted.

A report by the NCPT published on Thursday recommends that the use of coercive measures should be considered case by case.

“Total body restraint is excessive when used on persons who evidently present no danger,” commission chairman Jean-Pierre Restellini writes in the report. The commission also believes restraints should be eased whenever possible.

Doctors working for detention centres should have a veto on the repatriation of anyone whose health they believe could suffer as a result of coercive measures, the report says. Those accompanying flights should have access to all of a deportee’s medical records, and only specially trained police should be allowed to use body restraints.

The report also calls for deportees to be given more information. Although by law they are supposed to attend a preparatory interview where they are informed of the implications of compulsory repatriation, the commission’s monitors found that many were not fully aware of these. The report says this interview should always be conducted, and deportees should receive written information – in a language they understand – of the consequences of forced repatriation. The commission would also like to see the police who take part in the operations attend the interviews.

The NCPT, an independent Swiss national commission set up to ensure that the rights of persons “deprived of liberty” are respected, based its report on the observations of its members monitoring repatriation flights between October 2010 and July 2011.

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