Swiss revoke mother’s citizenship over suspected Islamic State links

Switzerland revoked dozens of passports for security reasons during World War Two and the years thereafter, but this is the second time it has done so based on the citizenship law in place since 1953. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The Swiss authorities have revoked the citizenship of a French-Swiss women for her suspected links to the Islamic State militant group. 

This content was published on January 2, 2020 - 11:48

In an information published in the Federal GazetteExternal link on December 31, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said the 30-year-old dual national from Berolle, near Morges in canton Vaud, had been stripped of her Swiss nationality in accordance with the law. 

The SEM confirmed to that the woman’s nationality had been revoked for her alleged links to Islamic State. 

“She acted against the interests of the Swiss state,” SEM spokesman Daniel Bach told 

The authorities say they did not know where exactly she was currently residing. However, according to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaperExternal link the woman, who grew up in Geneva, fled to Islamic State-held territory in Syria with her two oldest daughters in 2016, unbeknown to their two fathers. Once there, she allegedly married and had another child with a jihadist fighter who was killed in a drone raid in 2018.

The woman has reportedly been living in precarious conditions in internment camps in northern Syria with her three children since the beginning of 2019.

SEM has purportedly been trying to repatriate two of her children who have Swiss nationality, however, they have reportedly failed due to opposition from the mother.

“It’s a possibility. If it’s better for the children we will try to repatriate them,” said Bach.

The authorities’ decision to revoke the mother’s Swiss nationality can still be appealed before the Federal Administrative Court in St Gallen within 30 days, according to the SEM.

Second time

Switzerland revoked dozens of passports for security reasons during World War Two and the years thereafter, but this is the second time it has done so based on the citizenship law effective since 1953. 

In September, the Swiss authorities withdrew the Swiss citizenship from a Swiss-Turkish man who had been sentenced in 2017 to several years in prison for carrying out propaganda and recruiting fighters for an Islamist terrorist organisation. 

According to Article 42 of the Federal Act on Swiss CitizenshipExternal link, “the SEM may, with consent of the authority in the canton of origin, revoke the Swiss, cantonal and communal citizenship of a person holding dual nationality if his or her conduct is seriously detrimental to the interests or the reputation of Switzerland”. 

Under Article 30 of the Ordinance on Swiss CitizenshipExternal link, this is the case if the person has committed a serious crime in connection with terrorist activities or violent extremism. Decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis and only if the person has dual nationality. After someone’s citizenship has been withdrawn, Switzerland can deny entry to them if deemed a security threat. 

At present, fewer than five cases have been opened at SEM regarding the possible withdrawal of Swiss nationality of individuals linked to the Syrian conflict, Bach said. Another 15-20 cases are under review.

In June, the government said that it had identified over a dozen dual nationals suspected of committing crimes abroad during terrorist activities.

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