Swiss Confederation
Head of state and government: Johann Schneider-Ammann (replaced Simonetta Sommaruga in January)

A new law on asylum introduced free legal counselling for asylum-seekers. However, concerns remained regarding the respect of the rights of refugees and migrants. Authorities pushed back thousands of asylum-seekers to Italy. In September, the new surveillance law was accepted in a referendum.


In June, a new law on asylum, which had been adopted in September 2015, was accepted by referendum and partly entered into force. The law introduced some positive measures, including free legal counselling for asylum-seekers as of 2019, and the legal duty to take into account the needs of vulnerable asylum-seekers.

In the second half of the year, civil society organizations reported that authorities had pushed back to Italy several thousand asylum-seekers, including several hundred unaccompanied minors; some of them had close family members living in Switzerland.

In July, the Federal Administrative Court concluded that the State Secretariat for Migration had not effectively investigated the case of an asylum-seeking Nigerian woman who was allegedly trafficked into Switzerland.

Asylum-seeking children in reception centres continued to be denied access to education. On 1 October, a new law imposing a duty on cantonal authorities to ensure their right to education entered into force. Concerns remained regarding the restrictions imposed on the right of freedom of movement of asylum-seekers in most federal reception centres.


In July, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture raised concerns about police using disproportionate force in some cantons during operations to deport migrants.

Concerns remained regarding the attempted deportations of asylum-seekers with severe mental illnesses. In June, authorities in Neuchâtel unsuccessfully tried to deport a Kurdish asylum-seeker to Bulgaria despite his earlier attempt to commit suicide. In September, two Syrian women asylum-seekers, who had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Schaffhausen, attempted suicide shortly after police had removed them from the hospital to deport them. The Zurich Public Prosecutor Office opened an investigation into the events shortly after.


In May, the Lower Chamber of the Federal Parliament (National Council) voted in favour of a bill allowing second-parent adoption for same-sex couples.

In July, the prohibition of full-face veils entered into force in the Ticino canton. In September, the Lower Chamber of the Federal Parliament (National Council) adopted a bill to ban full-face veils at the national level. The bill was pending before the Upper Chamber (Council of States) at the end of the year.

In November, the Zurich District Court rejected the appeal introduced by Mohamed Wa Baile, a Swiss citizen of Kenyan origin, who in February 2015 alleged that the police identity check that he was subjected to at the Zurich train station was based on racial discrimination.

On 2 December, the government submitted to Parliament the bill authorizing the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).


In May, the Secretary of State for Migration launched a procedure to strip a 19-year-old bi-national of his Swiss nationality for having allegedly joined the armed group Islamic State without him being charged with any criminal offence.

In September, the surveillance law, which had been adopted in September 2015, was accepted in a referendum. The law grants far-reaching powers to the Federal Intelligence Service to access personal information from a variety of sources and for vaguely defined aims, including counteracting terrorist threats.

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.