Switzerland is facing wide criticism for turning back thousands of people at the Swiss-Italian border. Between July and August, the Swiss authorities have pushed back 7,000 at the Como(Italy)-Chiasso(Switzerland) border.   The Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR), the Italian Association of Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), the Swiss Organization Firdaus as well as Amnesty International Switzerland have criticised the Swiss government for violating the right to claim asylum.

The Swiss Refugee Council has told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin that they have a well-founded suspicion that some people who want to claim asylum in Switzerland are not being admitted into the asylum procedure and are instead immediately pushed back to Italy.  “The Swiss Refugee Council demands that every person at the border who expresses their will to seek protection in Switzerland is admitted onto Swiss territory and directed to the first reception centre, where they can apply for asylum, and the application will be examined by the State Secretariat for Migration. We stress that it is not in the competence of the border guards to decide whether or not an asylum application is well-founded,” Seraina Nufer at the Swiss Refugee Council told ECRE.

Earlier this week, the organisation stressed in a press release that such practices are also putting the right to family reunification at risk. Also, serious concerns were raised regarding the situation for unaccompanied and accompanied children who are sleeping rough while stranded at this border.

The Italian organization ASGI and the Swiss Association Firdaus have also criticised the Swiss and Italian governments on a press conference this Wednesday, for violating basic international standards  as well as European law. “These people did not have a right to an effective remedy. Most of the people we met in Como declared they didn’t receive adequate information about their right to international protection, and were not allowed to formalize their application at the Swiss border,” Elena Rozzi from ASGI told ECRE. “According to the information collected, many of them would have the right to be reunited to their family members in Switzerland or other EU States under the Dublin III Regulation or to be relocated”.

“We are concerned about reports from minors who tell us they have been sent back to Italy from the Swiss border and therefore prevented from joining relatives in Switzerland,” Amnesty International stressed.

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This article will appear in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 2 September 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.