Eritrean Refugees Are Again

Big Issue in Swiss Politics


  EPP Department for

Information and Culture



The Swiss Federal Council, the highest governing authority in the country, is currently hotly debating a proposed draft law aiming to stop mainly Eritrean asylum seekers (army deserters) from entering the country in big numbers, Swiss papers reported this week.

Eritrea was number one as source of refugees to Switzerland, followed by refugees from Somalia and Iraq. It is estimated that 4,000 Eritreans, most of them army deserters entered Switzerland in the past few years. One refugee assistant in a central Swiss canton reportedly told Eritrean asylum seekers: “a big number of your army is already here except its Commander-in-Chief, Isaias Afeworki”.

The papers reported that the number of Eritreans entering Switzerland increased soon after an asylum law was modified in December 2005, giving special consideration to army deserters. In 2006, over 1,200 Eritrean asylum seekers entered Switzerland, increasing by 655% the number corresponding number in the previous year. Since then, the number continued to increase. In the month of November 2008 alone, 494 Eritreans asked asylum in Switzerland.

The draft law being considered at the level of the 7-person Federal Council intends to revise the law on asylum so that army desertion will not be the sole factor justifying the right of obtaining political asylum in Switzerland. On top of that, the draft law, which, when finalized by the Federal Council, will be referred to the Swiss Parliament for adoption, stipulates that asylum seekers will be “penalized for involving themselves in political activities in Switzerland for the sole aim of obtaining political asylum”. This may be considered as a serious infringement on individual liberties, but the conservative Swiss parties are, anyway, supportive of such hardening of the refugee laws in the country.

In Switzerland, there are about 40,000 refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, of whom about 15% are from small Eritrean.


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