|Procedure for political asylum in Switzerland|
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Foreigners seeking protection in Switzerland can request asylum with any diplomatic representative or Swiss consulate, at any one of the country’s borders or at any Swiss airport. However, almost 90% of asylum-seekers sidestep the risk of being denied entry by a diplomatic representative or at the border – they enter Swiss territory illegally and go directly to one of the four FOR Reception Centers located in Chiasso, Basle, Geneva and Kreuzlingen.
- Request for asylum made abroad
You can contact the Swiss representative in your country to find out whether your personal circumstances will let you obtain asylum in Switzerland. This will give you a good idea of your actual chances before you invest in costly travel to Switzerland.
The personnel will take down your personal details and your motives. The information is then immediately sent to the Federal Office for Refugees (FOR), in Bern, where your case will be examined. You will receive authorization for entry only if you put forth plausible motives for fleeing, you have connections with Switzerland and you cannot seek asylum in any other State.
If your request is granted, you can enter Switzerland by presenting your entry visa at the border inspection. The employees will then escort you to the nearest FOR Reception Center.
- Requests for asylum at the border
When you make a request for asylum at the border, the customs officers will contact the Federal Office for Refugees, which will immediately decide whether to grant your entry into Switzerland. Such is the case if it is manifestly impossible to rule out any political persecution. If, however, you have stayed 20 days for no particular reason in a State where you could have requested asylum as well, generally your request will be denied. Exceptions are made if you have next of kin who already reside officially in Switzerland.
If your request is accepted, you must present yourself within 24 hours to one of the four FOR Reception Centers.
If your request is denied, you have the option of requesting asylum from the authorities of the country you just came from (France, Germany, Austria or Italy).
- Requests for asylum at an airport
If you attempt to seek asylum while transiting in Switzerland, your entry will be denied, insofar as continued travel to your initial destination is still possible and can be reasonably requested of you. In principle, the State to which you originally intended to travel has the jurisdiction to process your request.
Special authorization can be granted if there is a risk of you being sent back to your country of departure by the authorities in the country of destination, without receiving the right to a fair asylum procedure.
If your request is denied, you will be required to continue your journey. If it would be unsafe for you in the country of your destination, then you will most likely be sent back to your homeland. If the Swiss authorities in charge of asylum and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conclude that you are not at all politically persecuted, your repatriation will be ordered. These expulsion orders are sometimes executed by force. You nevertheless have the possibility, within ten days of your repatriation, of filing an appeal with a Swiss representative abroad to pursue your asylum request.
- Requests for asylum by foreigners already living officially in Switzerland
If you already have a residence permit for Switzerland and political changes in your home country could render you subject to political persecution upon your return, you can submit a request for asylum directly to the Aliens Police in your canton of residence. Consequently, you do not have to present yourself to one of the four FOR Reception Centers and you can stay in your canton of residence until the end of the procedures that concern you.
- Requests for asylum by persons having entered Switzerland illegally
Unfortunately, this is the method chosen by the majority of asylum-seekers to avoid being denied entry at the border. To be sure, in 1998, 25.7% of border asylum-seekers were refused entry to the country.
Once you have entered Switzerland illegally, you can go to one of the four FOR Reception Centers to submit your request.
If you are stopped in the frontier zone while attempting to cross the border illegally, you will be immediately sent to the authorities of the neighboring country, where you will have the possibility of requesting asylum. The only tolerated exception is if one of your next of kin is already officially living in Switzerland.
If it is impossible to demonstrate what country you came from, you will be granted an asylum procedure in Switzerland nonetheless.
Reception Center procedures
You will first be asked to produce any official identification. In the past, many asylum-seekers hid their identification papers, since that could hinder the deportation process in the event of denied entry. A new Law has since been passed stipulating that the asylum request will only begin in two cases: either you are able to give a credible reason why you no longer have identification papers, or you provide serious evidence of persecution. Since then, more and more asylum-seekers have been presenting their identification papers. Those who still do not present any official identification all the same are asked to retrieve them of their own accord or through relatives in their State of origin.
You will then be questioned on your personal details, your marital status, your travel itinerary and your motives for asylum. You will be fingerprinted and photographed to determine whether you have sought asylum in Switzerland in the past under another name. The documents will be sent to Federal Office for Refugees (FOR), which will make the decision from there. This procedure takes anywhere from five to ten days, during which time you will be housed at the Reception Center. You will also receive an information sheet stating your rights and obligations.
If there is no manifest abuse of the asylum procedure, you will be allotted to a canton, which will see to your basic needs and will proceed with a detailed hearing on your motives for asylum.
During the cantonal hearing, you will need to demonstrate as accurately and as thoroughly as possible the reasons why you feel persecuted. You may bring documents to support your claims. Requests for more specific details help to discern any contradictions.
Interpreters and relief organization representatives will assist you during the hearings, and you will be supported by public assistance throughout. Bearing in mind lodging costs (in inexpensive communal lodgings), maintenance, household articles and toiletries, clothing, spending money, etc., the total monthly assistance amounts to 1,200 Swiss francs per person.
Your allegations will then be examined by the Federal Office for Refugees, which has an extensive amount of accurate documentation on all countries and can obtain additional information from the Swiss Embassy in your country. The FOR thus decides whether you will be granted asylum or whether the request will be denied.
You have the right to make an appeal if your request is denied. All the details of your file will be carefully examined once again by the Swiss Asylum Appeals Committee, an independent commission responsible for the final decision by declaring whether the FOR ruling was made in accordance with the provisions of asylum law. Only approximately 10% of asylum-seekers are recognized refugees.
If you have no grounds for appeal or your appeal is rejected, you can no longer stay in Switzerland. You will be given anywhere from a few days to six months to leave of your own free will. If you do not leave Switzerland within this timeframe, you will be forced out by police intervention. Searches will be conducted for anyone who stays in the country illegally.