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Switzerland to return rejected asylum-seekers to Afghanistan

People move the body of a polio vaccination worker who was killed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on June 15, 2021. Four polio vaccination workers were killed and three injured in separate attacks by militants in the eastern city. Keystone / Ghulamullah Habibi

Switzerland has decided to resume the deportation of rejected asylum-seekers to Afghanistan, it has been confirmed.

This content was published on June 21, 2021 - 16:22
Keystone-SDA/sb

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) confirmed to Swiss public television, SRF, on Sunday that deportation flights would take place with immediate effect.

This move, which mirrors similar decisions in other European countries, follows an agreement with the Afghan government, the SEM said.

According to the SEM, 144 rejected asylum-seekers from Afghanistan who are staying in Switzerland will be returned to their home country. The date of their returns is not known.

Human rights groups have criticised the decision, warning that Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Amnesty International views any current deportation to Afghanistan as a violation of human rights.

“This decision is irresponsible. The security and human rights situations in Afghanistan are extremely precarious,” Alicia Giraudel, an asylum expert at Amnesty International Switzerland, told SRF. “Nobody should be taken back to Afghanistan at the moment.”

Lukas Rieder from the SEM insists that the safety of the people returned will be guaranteed.

“The SEM checks every single case, every single person, very precisely and in detail, whether they are personally threatened or persecuted,” he told SRF.

If this is the case, the person can stay in Switzerland and will be recognised as a refugee. “But if that is not the case, then a return to Afghanistan is possible,” he said.

Ongoing violence

Violence has been rising in Afghanistan as foreign forces prepare to withdraw from the country by September 11 and efforts to broker a peace settlement between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban have slowed.

The Taliban are fighting government troops in 26 of 34 provinces, and the insurgents have recently captured more than ten districts, government officials say.

Rieder said that the SEM was taking into account the withdrawal of troops, which was an “important factor” in their decision-making.

“But in the asylum procedure it is clarified whether a person being returned is being persecuted or threatened. That is why the withdrawal of troops does not play a role in these cases,” he said.

Giraudel meanwhile argues that the SEM can provide no safety guarantees at the moment.

“The NATO troop withdrawal threatens to worsen the security situation in Afghanistan. In the past few months we have documented horrific attacks on school children, medical staff, humanitarian workers and civilians. There are no guarantees that people will be protected,” she told SRF.

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