Responding to the Global Detention Project Covid-19 survey, AsyLex reported that although Switzerland has not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders, many immigration detainees have been released because returns are no longer possible. Certain local governments (cantonal authorities) have released all detainees, confirming information provided to the GDP by the Director General of the Geneva Cantonal Population and Migration Office (Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations) (see 9 June Switzerland update on this platform), whereas other local authorities have not released anyone. However, all detainees in Dublin procedures were released towards the end of March.
Asylex indicated that for released detainees, no “alternatives to detention” programs were used; instead, according to AsyLex, people were returned to crowded “camps,” referring to “asylum accommodation” (Asylunterkünften) or “asylum centres” (Asylzentren), which they said may lack adequate protections for preventing the spread of Covid-19. AsyLex explained that these places are often underground, with up to 15 people sleeping in one room. Blick TV investigated these facilities and published a video filmed by a detainee showing an overcrowded dormitory where social distancing is impossible to implement (see link below).
Asylex also said that immigration detainees have only been tested for Covid-19 if infection is suspected. In addition, according to the organisation, deportations were not halted as removals to Serbia and Albania took place and potentially to other countries.
On 9 June, the Swiss Supreme Court handed down a judgment in a case brought by AsyLex concerning the detention of a Somali national prior to deportation. The Court found that due to limitations on the ability to deport people, “detention pending removal” was unlawful during this period. AsyLex explained that the law stipulates that to detain people under this provision deportation must be foreseeable, as per Article 76 of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (AIG).
In a statement on their website published on 11 June, AsyLex also mentioned that they presented challenges in more than 40 cases throughout Switzerland during the Covid-19 pandemic, invoking various provisions (Articles 78(6)(a); 80(a)(6); and 80(a)(7)) of the AIG as well as Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. More than 30 of their clients were released from detention, while other cases are still pending.
- AsyLex, “Success for AsyLex before the Swiss Supreme Court: Detention pending removal is illegal during Covid-19 Pandemic,” 15 June 2020, https://www.facebook.com/AsyLex.ch/photos/a.255631438236828/931441713989127
- 24 Heures, “Le TF Critique la Détention en Vue du Renvoi,” 15 June 2020, https://www.24heures.ch/le-tf-critique-la-detention-en-vue-du-renvoi-352216366834
- AsyLex, “Home: Our Work During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” 11 June 2020, https://www.asylex.ch/?
- AsyLex (Lea Hungerbühler), Global Detention Project Covid-19 Survey, 17 June 2020.
- Blick TV, “Genug Schutz vor Corona?” 20 April 2020, https://www.blick.ch/news/schweiz/zuerich/asylzentrum-genug-schutz-vor-corona-id15853493.html
- Republique et Canton de Genève, Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations (Bernard Gut), Global Detention Project Covid-19 Survey, 5 June 2020.
- Image of a Dormitory in Asylum Accommodation, (Blick TV, “Genug Schutz vor Corona?,” 20 April 2020, https://www.blick.ch/news/schweiz/zuerich/asylzentrum-genug-schutz-vor-corona-id15853493.html)