Opinion: Switzerland’s Restrictions on Asylum Seekers

Opinion: Switzerland’s Restrictions on Asylum Seekers

This article focuses on the restrictions that have recently been placed on asylum
seekers in Switzerland and the effect it has had on how the outside world have viewed
Switzerland. The restrictions placed on asylum seekers are judged against human rights laws and international treaties. There are also a few supporting incidents used to support the initial statement made at the beginning of the article, which implies that Switzerland are being viewed as xenophobic and racist.

The actions of the Swiss government are undermining and making a mockery of the international treaties and encouraging discrimination.

Switzerland is located at the heart of Europe. Europe is viewed as the land of economic stability and a safe haven, yet Switzerland has established itself as far from representing these views. Asylum seekers are restricted from using swimming pools, schools and churches. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to ‘freedom of religion’. The Swiss government has recently been ‘accused’ by the mass media as being xenophobic and racist following the agreement made in the Swiss town of Bremgarten for the planned restrictions for asylum seekers from using public facilities. The word ‘accused’ is in quotation marks because no international authority has directly questioned and practically dealt with the discriminatory agreement. According to the agreement, the asylum seekers are technically allowed to use the public facilities, but they have to privately ask for permission in advance.

It is clear that this violates many human rights and international laws. Such an agreement can only be justifiable if the Swiss government can provide evidence that the agreement is necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory for the sake of national security, public order and public health. If the Swiss government cannot prove this, there is a possibility that they should be labelled as racist and xenophobic. The actions of the Swiss government are undermining and making a mockery of the international treaties, whilst encouraging discrimination.

Mayor Raymond Tellenbach of Bremgarten justified the restrictions based on security reasons to prevent any ‘conflict’ arising, with no credible evidence that allowing asylum seekers in the public areas will cause trouble. This is not a sufficient enough reason to restrict other human beings from the freedom of movement and enjoying life. The environment of segregation that the Swiss government has created can almost be said to resemble the apartheid that occurred in South Africa, given that most of the asylum seekers come from Africa and Asia. Not only does this raise issues of race, it also creates problems of class and equality. This also contradicts the Convention Against the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which ‘condemns racial discrimination’. The fact that the Swiss government is basically choosing to ignore the international treaties is embarrassing.

The asylum seekers are not criminals, so there is no need to treat them in such a manner; they have entered the country legally. The treatment they are receiving is unfair because asylum seekers will have fled from countries of hostility in the hope of returning to normal life, but instead they are greeted with stigmatisation.

This is the main issue regarding the way that the Swiss government treats non-nationals and other races. However, there have been some other incidents lately which have been of some concern. The methods that the Swiss use for mass deportation have been criticised and raised as a matter of concern by the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture. They looked at the treatment of people from transit to the point at which they boarded the flight. The related case of Joseph Ndukakuchiakwa, who died at Zurich Airport just before forced deportation was closed before it could be appealed.

It is clear that this violates many human rights and international laws.

Furthermore, the widely known media mogul Oprah Winfrey claimed to have been a victim of racial discrimination in Switzerland after a shopkeeper refused to sell her a bag worth £38,000, which she could easily afford. The actions of the Swiss government are even more alarming since the International Committee of the Red Cross was established in Geneva and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is currently based in Geneva. These are both establishments which focus on the state of non-citizens and one would expect that the Swiss government, more than any other nation, to be more conscious in the treatment of non citizens.

There is nothing wrong with controlling the influx of non-nationals entering the country. However, the underlying matter is the way in which the asylum seekers are being treated in the instant case.

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