Swiss justice gives the green light for asylum transfers to Italy


Border post in the canton of Graubünden between Italy and Switzerland. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Swiss authorities can resume the practice of returning families of failed asylum seekers to Italy, a federal court has ruled. The issue had been put on hold due to child protection concerns.

This content was published on October 22, 2021 – 7:08 PM

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Friday’s decision concerned a mother and her minor child who had been refused asylum in Switzerland in March 2019. After rejecting their request, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) wished to return them to Italy under European resettlement rules.

However, a decree 2018External link by the government of Matteo Salvini in Rome, which toughened the conditions of asylum seekers – including their accommodation – had been deemed unsatisfactory by the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, which had frozen the returns of refugees to Italy.

The so-called “initial reception centers” in Italy, where repatriated refugees were accommodated, were “overcrowded and ill-equipped to meet the needs of particularly vulnerable people,” the court said. He was particularly concerned about families with children and asylum seekers in poor health.

However, another decision by the Italian government in December 2020 overturned much of the Salvini decree, the court noted in its latest ruling on Friday. The moratorium on the return of asylum seekers to Italy can thus also be canceled.

A January 2020 court decision had already given the green light to the return to Italy of families and refugees in poor health if the Swiss authorities were assured that they would receive appropriate medical care and accommodation.

The Swiss Refugee Council on Friday criticized the latest decision, saying it went against the research and information it had. Conditions are “more precarious than ever” for asylum seekers in Italy, he said.

He called on the Swiss authorities not to resume the practice of returning these people across the border.


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