Swiss authorities have temporarily closed some immigration detention facilities, and detainees who have contracted the virus have been placed in isolation in prisons.
In the early stages of the virus’ spread within the country, three Covid-19 cases were detected within federal asylum centres (Chevrilles, Basel, and Bern). Transfers between such facilities were subsequently reduced, but the State Secretariat for Migration (‘SEM’) decided against introducing systematic testing for Covid-19.
As cases continued to rise within the country, various NGOs and official bodies urged the adoption of additional measures to protect vulnerable persons. On 18 March, Solidarité Sans Frontières’ called for several measures, including: access to health for asylum seekers; the release of immigration detainees; and the suspension of deportations. On 20 March, staff working at the Basel federal asylum centre criticised the lack of protective measures within the facility. The employees stated that approximately 200 refugees lived in the centre, most of them sleeping in 12 person rooms, and they were practically “shoulder to shoulder when serving food.” The SEM denied these allegations and said that it was following the Federal Office of Health’s recommendations in asylum centres.
On 23 March 2020, a detainee at the Frambois immigration detention centre tested positive and was thus placed in isolation at the Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva. A staff member also contracted the virus, and three other detainees were placed in isolation at the Geneva prison. The Frambois and Favra detention centres in Geneva were temporarily closed and detainees released.
During a protest in early April at the Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva, some 40 prisoners refused to return to their cells in the afternoon protesting against the conditions of their detention due to the measures taken to avoid the spread of Covid-19. The prisoners later complied with orders and returned to their cells.
- Solidarité Sans Frontières, “Coronavirus: des mesures de protection pour tout le monde,” accessed on 1 April 2020, https://www.sosf.ch/fr/sujets/asile/informations-articles/appel-aux-autorites.html
- La Liberté, “Coronavirus – Trois cas de contamination dans les centres fédéraux d’asile,” 13 March 2020, https://www.laliberte.ch/info-regionale/fribourg/coronavirus-trois-cas-de-contamination-dans-les-centres-federaux-d-asile-557227
- M. Sandrin,“Null Schutz: Mitarbeitende üben scharfe Kritik am Bund,” SRF, 20 March 2020, https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/coronavirus-im-asylzentrum-null-schutz-mitarbeitende-ueben-scharfe-kritik-am-bund
- A. Keystone, “Un homme en détention administrative à Genève atteint du Covid-19,” Radio Lac, 23 March 2020, https://www.radiolac.ch/actualite/un-homme-en-detention-administrative-a-geneve-atteint-du-covid-19/
- F. Amos, “Des Détenus de Champ-Dollon Protestent Contre les Mesures Anti-Covid-19,” RTS, 3 April 2020, https://www.rts.ch/info/regions/geneve/11221037-des-detenus-de-champ-dollon-protestent-contre-les-mesures-anti-covid-19.html
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Switzerland,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/switzerland