Switzerland: Information on refugee status determination procedures from 1988 to present
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 December 1992|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CHE12606|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Switzerland: Information on refugee status determination procedures from 1988 to present, 1 December 1992, CHE12606, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6abcd5c.html [accessed 24 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Asylum in Europe, published in 1983, states that applications for refugee status are made to the Cantonal Aliens Police (333). The cantonal police interview the applicant and ask questions about personal data, identity papers, education, professional activity, financial situation, political activity, languages spoken and the applicant's reasons for applying for asylum in Switzerland. The cantonal police will forward the applicant's file to the Federal Police Office. If, on the basis of the file prepared by the cantonal police, the applicant's case appears doubtful or likely to elicit a negative decision, he/she is normally invited to a supplementary interview by the Federal Police Office (Ibid., 334). The Federal Police Office make a decision on refugee status in accordance with the law.
With respect to the definition of "refugee," Asylum in Europe notes that
while the Asylum Law follows the definitions of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol in general, it does not, however, use the word 'persecution' but refers to 'serious prejudices' instead. As such are considered: danger to life, corporal integrity or freedom, as well as measures that cause intolerable psychological pressure. If the Federal Police Office concludes that these criteria are met and that no other country can be considered as the country of asylum, the application for asylum is granted (Ibid.).
Asylum is normally refused in the following cases: the asylum seeker has stayed in another country for over 20 years; it appears that he/she has found asylum or protection elsewhere; he/she cannot prove his/her fear of persecution or serious prejudices; he/she is found guilty of having committed a serious non-political crime (Ibid.).
No application for asylum may be rejected without the applicant having been heard in person by the Federal Police Office (Ibid.).
Appeals should be directed to the Federal Department of Justice and Police by registered letter within 30 days (Ibid.).
In 1988, a law was implemented on the refugee status determination process, and this law is still in effect today (Embassy of Switzerland, 18 Dec. 1992). The DIRB has not seen articles about this law that were published subsequent to its implementation, but one article in the Economist of 28 March 1987 does make mention about laws that were to be implemented in 1988 in an attempt to improve procedures for processing asylum requests and expediting the departure of unsuccessful applicants. Under the new measures individual cantons would gain more authority to make their own, speedier rulings (Ibid.).
According to a consular officer at the Embassy of Switzerland, one of the features of the determination procedure implemented in 1988 is a three-step inquiry process: first, the applicant must undergo a preliminary, summary questioning by federal officials at a reception centre. Based on that interrogation, a decision will be made on sending the individual to a specific canton where the applicant will be interrogated by cantonal officials in order to discover his/her reasons for seeking asylum. Finally, there is a final, third interrogation session carried out by the delegate for refugee affairs to clarify the situation (18 Dec. 1992).
According to the consular officer, when an application is refused, there can be an appeal to a special body of the Ministry of Justice (Ibid.). If the final decision is also negative, the applicant may still be allowed to stay in Switzerland if he/she is from an "unsafe" country. The definition of a "safe" or "unsafe" country is within the discretion of the person making the decision and will depend on the current situation in the country of origin of the applicant. If the decision-maker concludes that the applicant's country of origin is "safe," the applicant will be expelled (Ibid.).
With respect to the time period that was required to process a refugee status application in 1988, there is no information currently available to the DIRB, but the consular officer corroborated that since the implementation of the new 1988 law,
the procedure has been significantly expedited (Ibid.).
Please find attached a translation of an article from the periodical Asyl which describes the Swiss refugee determination process.
European Consultation on Refugees and Exiles. 1983. Asylum in Europe. 3rd ed.
The Economist [New York]. 28 March 1987. "So Many of Them, So Few of Us."
Embassy of Switzerland, Ottawa. December 18, 1992. Telephone Interview with Consular Officer.
Asyl [Zurich] 1987, second quarter. Walter Schmid. "Interrogating Asylum Applicants at the Reception Centre: The Last Chance to Speed Up the Asylum Determination Procedure?"