Swiss Treatment of Eritreans Sets Dangerous Precedent

ONE MONTH AGO, the Swiss government sent letters to 3,200 Eritrean asylum seekers that could have an impact far beyond Switzerland. It notified them that their temporary status was under review and that return to Eritrea “cannot generally

ONE MONTH AGO, the Swiss government sent letters to 3,200 Eritrean asylum seekers that could have an impact far beyond Switzerland. It notified them that their temporary status was under review and that return to Eritrea “cannot generally be considered as unenforceable.” This decision was immediately celebrated in Israel by anti-immigration decision-makersinfluential public figures and media channels, who saw it as a precedent for the forced return of many of the 26,000 Eritreans living in the country.

With high-level discussions reported to be taking place on the “Swiss option” and Israel’s plan to forcibly deport African refugees and migrants in disarray, there are well-founded fears that deportation to Eritrea could be the next solution.

As is often the case when anti-refugee policies are adopted by other countries, the small print is ignored. Subsequent incarnations of a controversial policy can become even more draconian. And those in Israel who celebrated the Swiss decision are ignoring some inconvenient facts.

First, that the recognition rate of Eritreans as refugees in Switzerland is around 50 percent. In 2017, 54 percent of Eritreans who received a decision on their asylum requests in Switzerland were granted full refugee status (3,464 Eritreans). The recent “review of status” decision, which applies only to Eritreans holding a temporary admission status, does not affect more than half the Eritreans in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s recognition rate of Eritreans is in any case far lower than the average across the European Union. In Israel, by comparison, it is virtually impossible to gain refugee status. So far 10 Eritreans have been recognized as refugees – plus one who was awarded refugee status by the appeals tribunal.

The second fact ignored by deportation enthusiasts in Israel is that out of the pool of 9,400 Eritreans who hold temporary status in Switzerland the status review will be conducted only on those who completed their military service (or otherwise resolved their situation with the Eritrean regime). The decision to conduct this review follows a federal court decision from last August, when the court determined that such people are not likely to be sentenced for a criminal offence or forcibly recruited to the military if returned. This is why letters were sent to only 3,200 asylum seekers.

Third, the Swiss letters are notifications of intent to review status. They are not deportation orders and certainly not a notice of a sweeping deportation of all Eritreans in the country. When it was announced on Swiss media, the spokesperson of the relevant authority emphasized that each case would be examined individually. These specifics have been ignored by those championing the move in Israel.

This is not the first time decision-makers in Israel have called for the forced return of Eritreans, nor the first time that such calls have relied on European administrative or legal developments. In June 2017, for example, the European Court of Human Rights decided not to reverse a negative decision by the Swiss in the case of an Eritrean asylum applicant determined not to be credible. The attorney heading the Israeli committee that reviews asylum requests hastily referred to this decision as a green light for Israel to deport Eritreans. The headline of the television interview conducted with him read: “The European Court: It is permitted to return Eritreans to Eritrea.” As simple as that.

This is not to say that the European Court of Human Rights decision, the Swiss review letters or any other steps taken in Europe against Eritrean asylum seekers are not troubling in themselves. Quite the opposite. At a time when the United Nations and human rights organizations agree that the Eritrean regime is responsible for extreme rights violations, talk of forced returns is alarming.

These policies not only jeopardize Eritrean asylum seekers in Europe but also have a ripple effect further afield. A Swiss decision to individually review the status of a certain group of Eritreans might very quickly result in mass and indiscriminate deportations from other places. In an era where rippling is happening so fast, decision-makers, making life and death decisions, must be aware of an even heavier burden on their shoulders.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Refugees Deeply.

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2 COMMENTS
  • rezen May 14, 2018

    Subject: “Swiss Treatment of Eritreans Sets Dangerous Precedent” , newsdeeply.com, May 14, 2018

    Commentary, 14 May 2018
    The phenomenon of EXODOUS of refugees around the Globe is NOT new in the anal of World History. And those refugees of ‘yesterday’ are enemies of ‘today’s refugees. But the decision is SELECTIVE based on human nature to be sensitive and discriminatory based on so many features – the prominent of which is always the mortal fear of changing the pigmentation of the skin: BLACK & WHITE. ALL in FUTILE attempt to keep the purity of skin colour over the other, completely oblivious of human interaction and evolution – no matter what fence one erects. Let us STOP here on that ugly characteristics of human nature and concentrate on the news item of OUR interest: The Eritrean Refugees.

    The problem of Eritreans belong to Eritreans. Let us start from 1961: The initiation of the 30-year WAR for INDEPENDENCE, LIBERTY, FREEDOM, JUSTICE…. Who wouldn’t want those qualities of Life? Every human being strives to achieve those qualities of life. But Eritreans were betrayed by their own Off-SPRING >>> A DICTATOR with his ENABLERS, meaning WE THE PEOPLE OF ERITREA. Go ahead and recite world history that you picked here and there and even memorized in universities to get a piece of paper of doctorate. In the END it is our affairs, our problem, to solve for our own benefit.

    Questions: a) Are there EFFECTIVE Eritrean Organizations abroad to handle the affairs of their brethren refugees around the Globe?; b) Is there ONE effective organization dealing with the political situation at HOME COUNTRY?; and c) Are, indeed, Eritreans capable of establishing sociopolitical/economic organizations that deal with the affairs of the HOME COUNTRY?
    Let us be honest: The answer to each question is NO! WE are simply NOT capable of handlining those tasks. We are only good at insulting each other on the Internet. As the slang goes: WE JUST DON’T HAVE IT. That is why foreign countries deal our affairs for us – but always based on their own interest >>> an expense that we have to pay, dearly. It is the story of our beloved Africa, if it is any consolation to us, on an individual basis.

    But, there must be something we are good at: Yes, WE ERITREANS are always proudly conscious of, and strong at, parochial matters such as, first and foremost, RELIGION followed by region, followed by tribalism, followed by etc etc. etc………..……………..
    I can NEVER finish my opinion without gladly repeating, as always, quoting myself: “ my greatest admiration, the valour and determination of the Eritrean PEOPLE in the 30-year struggle (1961 – 1991) to attain their Liberty and Freedom against a mighty opponent. This is the TRUE GLORIOUS HISTORY of ordinary Eritreans that NO SOUL CAN EVER DENY – regardless of the heinous inherent betrayal THE END “ Unquote.
    ————————————————————————————————
    : .
    Post Script There are two stories, I heard, that cannot get out of my mind – and NEVER will be: a) A story that two biological brothers fought against each other to death for the SAME objective [ELF vs EPLF], with the exception of adding the letter “P” as if the other has no “P”eople !; and b) A family lost their precious — only, and only, — four sons fighting each other to’ liberate themselves!!! The TRAGIC history of Eritrea seems to be INHERENT and having NO END

    • k.tewolde May 14, 2018

      “with the exception of adding the letter “P” as if the other has no “P”eople !;” …rezen,I am floored!…..to support your post script,even though the victorious brother who evicted his own brethren forcefully, instead redeeming the family that was left behind he/she continues to abuse and rob the home and berate,humiliate,deny,chastise,insult,hunt and kill the evicted brother making it the number one goal for him/her to never come back home again.Mission accomplished for the Lucifer.Pass the blue label please.

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