Swiss: There Exists Better Knowledge on the Situation in Eritrea

Switzerland wants to expel as many as 3,200 failed “Eritrean” asylum-seeker. But it lacks a treaty with Eritrea to enforce expulsion. Martin Reichlin is media spokesman at the State Secretariat for Migration. (Photo: SRF)


Switzerland is trying to expel as many as 3,200 “Eritreans” whose requests for asylum have been rejected years ago and receive provisional admission from the government ever since.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) announced that the government starts issuing letters to these Eritreans [including other national who falsely claim Eritrean] to inform the suspension of their temporary admission as their return to Eritrea is “reasonable.”

The announcement marks a major policy shift in a country that was known for its preferential treatment of Eritrean asylum seekers through its “automatic” asylum system.

Such misguided asylum policy, mostly for political expediency, lured not only Eritreans but also thousands of other African nationals to Switzerland.

Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga, who, in 2015, said no one would be sent back to Eritrea, is now claiming Eritreans are safe to return back to their country.

Asked by SRF TV if the situation in Eritrea is different today than a few years ago, the Councillor admits, although the situation in the country has not fundamentally changed, there are encouraging developments in some areas.

He categorically stated that there is a better understanding of the situation in Eritrea today than the years before.

The policy shift, hailed by conservatives and attacked by the left, followed a Swiss court ruling last year that Eritreans who have completed their military national service can safely be sent home.

Switzerland sent a team last year to access the situation in Eritrea following several reports that the reality on the ground is far from what is depicted by the mainstream media.

Switzerland lacks a treaty on repatriations with Eritrea to enforce expulsion.

Eritrea insists a thorough vetting process as a condition to determine the “real identities” of those returnees before accepting them as its nationals.

Switzerland’s flawed immigration policy encouraged many non-Eritrean migrants to falsely claim the Eritrean identity in a bid to secure easy asylum.

People who claimed from “Eritrea” topped the Swiss list of asylum seekers last year with nearly a fifth of the more than 18,000 overall requests. More than 13,700 “Eritreans” were in the asylum process in February.

The other main hindrance to the Swiss return policy is Eritrea’s long-standing policy on repatriation.

Eritrea maintains a policy of “voluntary repatriation” of its nationals from any country and opposes any forced repatriation or expulsion.

* SRF and Reuters contributed to the story