Switzerland

Detains migrants or asylum seekers?

Yes

Has laws regulating migration-related detention?

Yes

Migration Detainees

2,761

2022

Migration Detainee Entries

3,023

2022

Refugees

189,100

2023

Asylum Applications

14,986

2023

Overview

Switzerland’s immigration detention practices contrast with those of its neighbours, including its continued use of prisons for immigration detention purposes, which nearly all other European countries long ago ceased doing. Detention conditions can vary considerably from one canton to the next and there are long-standing concerns about the country’s detention of at-risk groups, including asylum seekers and children over the age of 15.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

Switzerland: Detainee’s Death Reignites Calls to End Immigration Detention

In the morning of Saturday 8 April, a male immigration detainee was found unconscious in his cell in Geneva’s Favra detention facility. His death has prompted renewed calls for authorities to close the controversial centre.  According to a press release from the Department of Security, Population and Health (DSPS), the man (reportedly a Tunisian awaiting […]

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11 May 2021 – Switzerland

In early May 2021, the Swiss immigration authority (Secrétariat d’Etat aux Migrations or SEM) launched an investigation into allegations of violence at federal asylum centres in Switzerland. The investigation followed the release of press reports about the use of excessive force by security officers when dealing with some asylum seekers. According to SEM, appropriate procedures […]

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Statistics on Detainees per Category of Detention in Switzerland from 2017 to 2021, (Office Fédéral de la Statistique,

02 February 2021 – Switzerland

On 26 January 2021, the SRF/RTS reported that the Asylum Departure Centre in Aarwangen was placed under quarantine by the Canton of Bern because 19 of its 100 inhabitants had tested positive for COVID-19. They also closed the facility’s kindergarten and school. On 29 January 2021, the Canton reported that the number of positive cases […]

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Frambois Detention Centre Seen From Outside in 2011, (Fernand Melgar,

02 December 2020 – Switzerland

In a recent finding, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) concluded that Switzerland violated provisions in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when it failed to show due diligence in assessing a child’s best interests and did not take the child’s views into account in a case involving a […]

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24 Heures, “Asile: Pas de Détention si le Renvoi est Empêché par le Coronavirus,” 8 October 2020, https://www.24heures.ch/asile-pas-de-detention-si-le-renvoi-est-empeche-par-le-coronavirus-783597632491

06 August 2020 – Switzerland

As the GDP previously reported (see 27 June update), while Swiss authorities did not issue a moratorium on new detention orders during the pandemic, many immigration detainees were released due to the impossibility of conducting returns. This has been confirmed by Amnesty International Switzerland, which informed the GDP that some cantons declared a moratorium on […]

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M. Shields, “Switzerland Expands COVID-19 Quarantine watchlist,” Reuters, 22 July 2020, https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/world/switzerland-expands-covid-19-quarantine-watchlist-476185/

27 June 2020 – Switzerland

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 […]

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Image of a Dormitory in Asylum Accommodation, (Blick TV,

09 June 2020 – Switzerland

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the Geneva Cantonal Population and Migration Office (Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations or OCPM) reported that while Geneva had not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders, no new orders have been issued since the end of April, owing to the impossibility of […]

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Champ-Dollon Prison in Geneva, (EaG,

28 May 2020 – Switzerland

Since the beginning of April, certain immigration detention centres, including the Frambois and Favra centres in Geneva, have been closed. Around 30 people were detained in the centres at the time. Reports suggest that they may have been assigned to a temporary residence or may be prohibited from entering a specific perimeter or region. The […]

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Bunkbeds in a Dormitory of a Federal Asylum Centre, (Anthony Anex, Keystone,

04 April 2020 – Switzerland

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 […]

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Detainees Playing Football During Recreation in the Frambois Detention Centre in Geneva, (https://www.letemps.ch/suisse/un-licenciement-injuste-coute-tres-cher-letat-geneve)
Last updated: June 2020

DETENTION STATISTICS

Migration Detainee Entries
2,761
2022
2,576
2021
2,366
2020
Total Migration Detainees (Entries + Remaining from previous year)
3,023
2022
2,691
2021
2,633
2020
3,284
2018
3,724
2017
5,732
2016
5,417
2014
6,039
2013
6,806
2012
7,540
2011
Reported Detainee Population (Day)
145
2023
261
2022
115
2021
267
2020
294
2019
284
2018
257
2017
319
2016
316
2015
328
2014
375
2013
412
2012
379
2011
375
2010
419
2009
428
2008
391
2007
305
2006
368
2005
394
2004
307
2003
295
2002
218
2001
333
2000
384
1999
250
1998
218
1997
180
1996
387
1995
147
1994
100
1993
96
1992
81
1991
72
1990
33
1989
60
1988
Immigration Detainees as Percentage of Total Migrant population (Year)
0.16
2018
0.3
2013

DETAINEE DATA

Countries of Origin (Year)
Algeria (Nigeria) Albania Morocco Kosovo
2018
Albania (Algeria) Nigeria Morocco Kosovo
2017
Number of Asylum Seekers Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
1,297
2021
1,309
2020
2,155
2018
Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
7
2019
8
2018
21
2017
25
2016
37
2015
131
2014
130
2013
177
2012
176
2011
Number of Unaccompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
1
2021
2
2019
2
2018
4
2017
Number of Accompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
8
2021
5
2019
6
2018
17
2017

DETENTION CAPACITY

Total Immigration Detention Capacity
352
2021
0
2020
352
2018
Immigration Detention Capacity (Specialised Immigration Facilities Only)
60
2018
91
2011
Number of Dedicated Immigration Detention Centres
5
2020
5
2011

ALTERNATIVES TO DETENTION

ADDITIONAL ENFORCEMENT DATA

Number of Deportations/Forced Removals (Year)
1,518
2020
2,985
2019
2,486
2018
3,021
2017
Number of Voluntary Returns & Deportations (Year)
1,051
2020
1,631
2019
Number of Apprehensions of Non-Citizens (Year)
14,420
2018
13,800
2014
15,045
2013
14,170
2012

PRISON DATA

Criminal Prison Population (Year)
6,316
2021
6,909
2020
6,884
2015
7,072
2013
6,599
2012
Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
69.6
2020
71
2015
74.3
2013
73.8
2012
Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
73
2021
80
2020
83
2015
87
2013
82
2012

POPULATION DATA

Population (Year)
8,800,000
2023
8,700,000
2020
8,603,899
2020
8,299,000
2015
7,700,000
2012
International Migrants (Year)
2,491,249
2020
2,572,000
2019
2,438,700
2015
2,335,100
2013
International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
28.79
2020
29.9
2019
29.4
2015
28.9
2013
Refugees (Year)
189,100
2023
182,474
2022
118,829
2021
115,868
2020
116,700
2019
104,037
2018
93,056
2017
82,608
2016
73,336
2015
69,390
2015
52,464
2014
50,747
2012
Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
9.87
2016
7.63
2014
6.48
2012
6.6
2011
Asylum Applications (Year)
14,986
2023
11,041
2020
14,203
2019
14,269
2019
9,042
2016
22,113
2014
32,359
2012
Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
45
2022
45
2022
33
2020
31
2019
Stateless Persons (Year)
1,074
2023
710
2020
49
2018
62
2017
66
2016
76
2015
79
2014
69
2012

SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
82,828
2018
85,594
2014
80,528
2013
79,052
2012
Remittances to the Country (in USD)
2,519
2019
2,737
2015
2,901
2011
Remittances From the Country (in USD)
26,750
2018
21,611
2010
Unemployment Rate
5
2019
Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
3,120.78
2019
3,045
2012
3,051
2011
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
2 (Very high)
2019
3 (Very high)
2014
9 (Very high)
2012
Integration Index Score
21
2014
23
2011
World Bank Rule of Law Index
99 (1.93)
2018
97 (-0.8)
2012
94 (-1)
2011
95 (-0.9)
2010

LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

Does the Country Detain People for Migration, Asylum, or Citizenship Reasons?
Yes
2023
Does the Country Have Specific Laws that Provide for Migration-Related Detention?
Yes
2023
Detention-Related Legislation
Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration - (Loi Fédérale sur les Etrangers et l'Intégration du 16 Décembre 2005) (2005) 2014
2005
Asylum Act - (Loi sur l'Asile du 26 Juin 1998) (1998) 2014
1998
Do Migration Detainees Have Constitutional Guarantees?
Yes (Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation - (Constitution fédérale de la Confédération Suisse du 18 Avril 1999), Articles 10 and 31) 1999 1999
1999
Additional Legislation
Ordonnance sur l’Exécution du Renvoi et de l’Expulsion d’Etrangers (1999) 2020
1999
Bilateral/Multilateral Readmission Agreements
Albania (2000)
2017
Algeria (2007)
2017
Armenia (2005)
2017
Bosnia and Herzegovina (2009)
2017
Bulgaria (2009)
2017
Croatia (1997)
2017
Czech Republic (2011)
2017
Estonia (1998)
2017
Finland (2010)
2017
France (2000)
2017
Georgia (2005)
2017
Germany (1994)
2017
Greece (2009)
2017
Hong Kong (2000)
2017
Hungary (1995)
2017
Italy (2000)
2017
Kyrgyzstan (2003)
2017
Kosovo (2010)
2017
Latvia (1998)
2017
Lebanon (2006)
2017
Lithuania (1996)
2017
Macedonia (2012)
2017
Moldova (2011)
2017
Norway (2005)
2017
Philippines (2003)
2017
Poland (2006)
2017
Romania (2009)
2017
Russian Federation (2011)
2017
Serbia (2010)
2017
Slovakia (2007)
2017
Slovenia (2005)
2017
Sweden (2003)
2017
Ukraine (2004)
2017
United Kingdom (2006)
2017
Viet Nam (2006)
2017
Spain (2005)
2017
Luxembourg (2007)
2017
Netherlands (2007)
2017
Belgium (2007)
2017
Austria (2001)
2017
Montenegro (2011)
2017
Benin (2012)
2017
Afghanistan (2006)
2017
Denmark (2013)
2017
Sierra Leone (2004)
2017
Austria (1911)
2017
Croatia (1993)
2017
Kuwait (2017)
2017
Tunisia (2014)
2017
China (2004)
2004
Sri Lanka (1994)
1994
Re-Entry Ban
Yes
2020
Legal Tradition(s)
Civil law
Federal or Centralised Governing System
Federal system
2020
Centralised or Decentralised Immigration Authority
Decentralized immigration authority
2020

GROUNDS FOR DETENTION

Immigration-Status-Related Grounds
Detention to prevent unauthorised entry at the border
2020
Detention for failing to respect a voluntary removal order
2020
Detention to effect removal
2020
Detention during the asylum process
2020
Detention pending transfer to another Schengen country
2020
Detention for unauthorized stay resulting from criminal conviction
2020
Detention to prevent absconding
2020
Detention to ensure transfer under the Dublin Regulation
2020
Criminal Penalties for Immigration-Related Violations
Yes (Yes)
2020
Grounds for Criminal Immigration-Related Incarceration / Maximum Length of Incarceration
Unauthorized entry (365)
2020
Unauthorised stay (365)
2020
Unauthorized exit (365)
2020
Has the Country Decriminalised Immigration-Related Violations?
No
2020
Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
Accompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2020
Unaccompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2020
Asylum seekers (Provided)
2020

LENGTH OF DETENTION

Maximum Length of Administrative Immigration Detention
Number of Days: 540
2020
Average Length of Immigration Detention
Number of Days: 28
2018
Number of Days: 25
2017
Number of Days: 25
2016
Number of Days: 21
2014
Number of Days: 22
2013
Number of Days: 20
2012
Number of Days: 23
2011
Average Length of Asylum Detention
Number: 66
2021
Maximum Length of Detention at Port of Entry
Number of Days: 15
2020

DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

Custodial Authorities
Canton Bern, Migrationsdienst des Kantons Bern/ Einwohnerdienste, Migration und Fremdenpolizei der Stadt Bern (Canton Bern, Migrationsdienst des Kantons Bern/ Einwohnerdienste, Migration und Fremdenpolizei der Stadt Bern) Regional Authority-Immigration or Citizenship
2020
Office cantonal de la population et des migrations (OCPM) (Canton of Geneva, Office cantonal de la population / Service de la Population, Canton Vaud / Service des Migrations, Canton Neuchâtel) Regional Authority-Immigration or Citizenship
2020
Migration Office (Department of Security and Justice, Migration Office, Canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden) Regional Authority-Internal or Public Security
2020
(Office for Migration, Canton Basel-Stadt / Service de la Population, Canton Vaud / Office for Migration, Canton Basel-Landschaft)
2011
(Canton St. Gallen, Ausländeramt des Kantons St. Gallen)
2011
(Canton Zurich, Migrationsamt des Kantons Zürich / Service de la Population, Canton Vaud)
2011
(Office for Migration and Integration, Canton Aargau)
2011
(Canton Bern, Migrationsdienst des Kantons Bern / Service de la Population, Canton Vaud / Service des Migrations, Canton Neuchâtel)
2011
(Canton Bern, Migrationsdienst des Kantons Bern/ Einwohnerdienste, Migration und Fremdenpolizei der Stadt Bern / Service des Migrations, Canton Neuchâtel)
2011
(Canton Basel-Stadt, Justiz- und Sicherheitsdepartement, Bevölkerungsdienste und Migration)
2011
(Department of Corrections, Canton Glarus)
2011
(Kantonales Migrationsamt, Canton Schaffhausen)
2011
(Office for Migration, Canton Schwyz)
2011
(Migration und Schweizer Ausweise, Asyl und Rückkehr, Canton Solothurn)
2011
(Office for Migration, Canton Zug)
2011
(Canton of Geneva, Office cantonal de la population, Service Étrangers et Confédérés)
2011
(Department of Security and Justice, Migration Office, Canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden)
2011
(Service de la population et des migrants, Canton Fribourg / Service de la Population, Canton Vaud / Service des Migrations, Canton Neuchâtel)
2011