17 April 2015

A new AIDA report on Switzerland, written by the Swiss Refugee Council, examines “Testphase”, a Swiss accelerated procedure introduced in January 2014, which will be pilot tested in the federal reception centre of Zurich until 2016.

Under this pilot accelerated procedure, asylum seekers are randomly selected and transferred to the Zurich test centre, an open reception centre, with a view to completing all stages of the first instance asylum procedure in the same place and within a short period of time. An important aspect of this pilot project is that every asylum seeker is assigned a free legal representative, a novelty for the Swiss asylum system. A draft federal law, to be discussed in Parliament, envisages the establishment of an accelerated procedure modelled after “Testphase” for all of Switzerland.

This new accelerated procedure differs from the airport procedure applied in transit areas of the country’s international airports, and from the “48-hour” procedure (not officially labelled as an accelerated procedure) applied to asylum seekers coming from “safe European countries” such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and Georgia.

Swiss law is undergoing amendments to comply with the Dublin III Regulation, which allocates responsibility between Member States for processing asylum applications. Currently, Swiss legislation does not comply with the detention provisions of Dublin III, as it enables detention of asylum seekers on the sole ground that they are to be returned to another country under the Dublin Regulation. However, while the proposed federal law will comply with that provision of the new Regulation, it does not seem in line with the requirement to set the maximum duration of detention for these cases at 3 months and to provide clear objective criteria for the definition of “significant risk of absconding” as a ground for detention, according to the AIDA report.

Following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Tarakhel v Switzerland in November 2014, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court has also endorsed in March this year the view that asylum seeking families cannot be lawfully returned to Italy under the Dublin system if there are no guarantees ensuring that they will be accommodated adequately and have their family unity respected upon return.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 April 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.