Swiss Parliament Hardens Its Refugee Laws
The stormy two-day debates in the Swiss Parliament were concluded on 14 June 2012 adopting laws intended to make Switzerland less attractive to refugees in general, and to Eritrean military deserters and conscientious objectors in particular.
The Swiss law will no more consider "only desertion or draft dodging” as sufficient justification for granting asylum. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navathenem Pillay called it as “violation of the international laws on refugees”.
Some Swiss commentators argue that Eritrean asylum seekers should not, normally, come under the threat of such revised laws because they come from a repressive military regime which turned its national service into a limitless and illegitimate servitude and also subjected military conscripts to inhuman treatments and torture. They say the Eritrean “national service” is already in contravention of international refugee conventions and that those who object it have to be protected. However, there is great fear that the revision anyway gives a legal ground for the Swiss Federal Immigration Office to grant subsidiary protection only and not the refugee status - meaning, Eritreans will have only temporary permits.
The new refugee law also terminates social assistance to asylum seekers who will be given only emergency benefits which is as low as 8 Swiss francs per person per day. Furthermore, the Swiss lower house (Conseil National) has adopted the creation of special extra-judicial detention centers for certain asylum seekers identified as troublemakers.
The amended law will be enforced following a similar vote by the Swiss Senate (Conseil d`Etats) within a few months.
The Swiss left parties led by the Socialists are voicing their intention to call for a national referendum to reverse the decision.