Following the deaths of at least three Tamil asylum seekers in Swiss detention, campaigners have demanded an end to the policy of forcibly deporting Eelam Tamils to Sri Lanka and called for justice to be served.
Dozens of protestors gathered outside of a deportation prison Bässlergut last month shouting slogans and carrying placards that denounced Switzerland’s deportation of Tamils. Campaigners accused the Swiss government of working with the Sri Lankan state and being complicit in Colombo’s repression of Tamils.
The protest comes after at least three confirmed deaths of Tamil asylum seekers whilst under Swiss custody.
Last year, a group of four Swiss guards were acquitted over their roles in the death of a 28-year-old Tamil woman at a prison in 2018, after they delayed medical attention following a suicide attempt for 19 minutes, leaving her face down and naked on the floor.
On February 15, 2022, Nesurasa Rasanayagam died in Switzerland’s Gampelen camp. No cause of death was ever officially identified and his family were only informed of his death two weeks later. Despite their requests, his body was cremated in Switzerland.
Last month, another Tamil asylum seeker Naguleswaran Vijayan committed suicide in Swiss detention.
The deaths are symbolic of the cruelty of Switzerland’s asylum and immigration policy said campaigners.
Nesurasa, for instance, was married and had three children that he was hoping to send money to. Despite having spent 7 years in Switzerland, he was still denied the right to work and granted just eight francs emergency aid per day.
“Nesurasa became a fatal victim of a racist system that pushes people to the limit of what is psychologically endurable through social, political and economic isolation,” said campaigners. “These inhumane conditions kill people.”
“Tamil asylum seekers are traumatised as survivors of the genocide and because of the inhumane asylum processes,” said Nitharsan from Phoenix – The Next Geneartion, a Swiss-Tamil organisation that has campaigned on these issues. “For such people, this practice can have deadly consequences.”
“Legally, physical and mental health must be confirmed in order to carry out deportation,” he added, stating that “mental illnesses are deliberately overlooked in order to be able to carry out deportations.”
“But as you can see, this has deadly consequences.”
“We are aware that there are more cases. But because of the federal structure, it is difficult to see the statistics. But we will compile every single case and fight for justice for every single person.”