One of the smallest countries in Europe, Liechtenstein had recorded 2,454 cases of COVID-19 as of 26 January 2021. Following confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in the country on 3 March 2020, the government imposed various restrictive measures, including a ban on all public and private events, a prohibition for more than five people to gather in public spaces, and the closure of all bars and nightclubs.
There is little available information regarding the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers during the crisis. The country receives just a handful of asylum applications each year (39 in 2019). According to UNHCR, many of these applications are found to be inadmissible, largely on Dublin III grounds, but also due to controversial admissibility grounds provided in the Asylum Act (see below for more information).
According to UNHCR – which describes Liechtenstein’s asylum system as “similar to the Swiss system” – applicants are initially placed in a reception centre in Vaduz (or other accommodation provided by the State) during asylum proceedings. Applicants are provided legal advice from government-commissioned lawyers following the first instance decision.
Following a recommendation from Brazil during the second cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012 urging Liechtenstein to “Reduce the permissible length of administrative detention of asylum seekers, especially children,” the state party rejected the suggestion. It noted, “The Asylum Act and the Foreigners Act set out the maximum duration of administrative detention of asylum-seekers. For adults, it is six months. For minors between the ages of 15 and 18, it is three months. Younger persons may not be placed in administrative detention. In Liechtenstein’s view, the maximum duration of administrative detention complies with international standards and is not disproportionately long.” In 2008, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture reported that non-nationals are detained in Vaduz Prison. The GDP does not have evidence about whether this facility continues to provide this function today.
In January 2017, Liechtenstein introduced new asylum admissibility grounds following amendments to the Asylum Act. Some of the grounds were heavily criticised. For example, Article 20 Para. 1 (g) provides that an applicant will be found inadmissible if their behaviour shows that they are unwilling or unable to integrate. In its 2017 submission on Liechtenstein to the Universal Periodic Review, UNHCR noted that it was “concerned that some of these new admissibility grounds will lead to exclusion from refugee status beyond the exclusion clauses of the 1951 Convention (Art. 1F).
- Embassy of the Principality of Liechtenstein, Washington, D.C., “Measures Taken in Liechtenstein in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic,” 30 November 2020, http://www.liechtensteinusa.org/article/measures-taken-in-liechtenstein-in-response-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic
- UNHCR, “Submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Universal Periodic Review: 3rd Cycle, 29th Session, Liechtenstein,” June 2017, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5b0818244.pdf
- U.S State Department, “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Liechtenstein,” 2019, https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/liechtenstein/
- UNHCR, “Asile au Liechtenstein,” https://www.unhcr.org/dach/ch-fr/nos-activites/asile-au-liechtenstein
- UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Liechtenstein, Addendum,” 28 May 2013, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/142/37/PDF/G1314237.pdf?OpenElement
- UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein on the visit to Liechtenstein carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 5 to 9 February 2007,” 3 July 2008, https://www.refworld.org/docid/486ddf682.html