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Swiss court slammed over refugee ruling

NGOs and refugee agencies have criticised a Swiss federal court ruling that allows failed asylum seekers to be returned to Sri Lanka, calling it a “dangerous” decision.

The ruling deemed that it was safe to return asylum seekers back to the island, despite acknowledging the worsening human rights situation, particularly with the deteriorating freedom of speech, and sparked a wave of criticism.

The court also noted that government opponents are considered enemies of the state along with  journalists, human rights activists and NGOs, and are at risk of persecution.

Christoph Wiedmer, director of the Society for Threatened Peoples, told swissinfo.ch.,

 “It’s really a bit shocking saying there is a risk for these people, even those coming from Switzerland, but then they accept that they have to be sent back. I really don’t understand that.”

The court did rule however, that people from the Vanni cannot be returned to Sri Lanka, unless they can return to another part of the country. Groups have urged the Federal Migration Office to acknowledge that all Tamils returning to Sri Lanka, face the same risk from the government.

Wiedmer said that there were “a lot, a lot” of cases of tamils being interrogated by the government once returned to the island, and commented,

“We hope the Federal Migration Office will handle this very carefully, [and is] aware that every single person is really threatened”.

The Swiss refugee Council also released a statement criticising the ruling, saying,

“Considering the circumstances, the Swiss Refugee Council sees the court’s change in practice to be premature.

As long as the situation is not continuously stable and there are still risks posed to deported asylum seekers, no asylum seeker should be sent back against his will to the north or east of Sri Lanka.”

See our earlier posts:

Amnesty sends report to UN Committee against Torture (Oct 2011)

Bid to halt deportation fails, Tamils detained on arrival in Colombo (Oct 2011)

Asylum seekers held under PTA (Sep 2011)

‘Why save me to send me to die?’ (Jun 2011)