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Asylum seekers to face Covid tests and mobile phone tracking

The political left argued that the use of data from mobile phones is a violation of basic rights of asylum seekers. © Keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Parliament has agreed to allow the authorities to use electronic data from mobile phones, tablets, computers and USB sticks to establish the identity of asylum seekers in Switzerland.

This content was published on September 15, 2021 - 12:43
swissinfo.ch/urs

On Wednesday, the Senate followed the House of Representatives, despite opposition by the political left, which argued that the move is a violation of basic rights.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the new measure would only be applied in exceptional cases.

The immigration authorities carried out a similar six-month pilot project in 2017-18 and said it had yielded useful results in about 15% of cases.

In another decision, the Senate also followed the other parliamentary chamber in approving mandatory Covid testing for asylum seekers who are awaiting deportation.

This measure applies to people over the age of 15. It remains valid until the end of 2022.

The government and a majority in parliament argued the number of rejected asylum seekers had risen considerably in the past few months and the situation was unlikely to change soon.

Supporters said the law would facilitate deportations, while refugee groups and left-wing parties insisted that the physical integrity of people must be protected.

Travel restrictions

The decisions came as parliament is debating a proposal to introduce travel bans for people with temporary residence status in Switzerland.

The Senate approved the restrictions in principle but both chambers still have to agree the details.

An estimated 50,000 people in Switzerland currently have a so-called F-permit. It is granted to foreign nationals with temporary residence rights in cases where their return is considered unlawful, unreasonable or impossible.

Switzerland’s asylum laws have been amended several times over the past decades and it was also the subject of several nationwide ballots.

In 2016, voters approved a legal reform paving the way to speed up the asylum procedure while guaranteeing free legal aid.

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