Thousands of rejected asylum seekers can neither be deported nor return to their homeland. Many continue to live in Switzerland and receive emergency aid, but have no prospects for the future. Young Eritreans tell us their story.
This content was published on March 7, 2019 – 11:00 am
Mewael * lives in Geneva on CHF 10 a day. He has no right to study or work. To fill his days, he plays football, does smaller jobs in the accommodation assigned to him or cooks in the house of the neighborhood association.
He is one of the thousands of people who have not been granted asylum but cannot return to their homeland and are now stuck here in Switzerland. 2017 have more than 8000external link rejected asylum seekers Emergency aidexternal link received, mostly in the form of shelter and food.
Mewael is around 20 years old. He fled Eritrea and came to Switzerland almost three years ago. He submits an asylum application and learned French while he was on the decisions of the authorities that field years later: His two application is rejected, Mewael must die and leave Switzerland. However, he files an appeal against the asylum decision and is now clinging to this weak hope.
The young man would like to do an apprenticeship as an electrician or mechanic, but he no longer believes in it. “Life in Switzerland is complicated,” sighs his friend Samson. “It’s not complicated, it’s dead,” replies Mewael with tears in his eyes.
Signposting ordered, but not carried out
Among the rejected asylum seekers there are many Eritreans who find themselves in this situation because the Swiss government has not signed any readmission agreements with Eritrea. SIE can therefore not expel rejected asylum seekers under duress.
“At the international level, Switzerland stands out because it has eviction decisions: No European country carries out evictions to Eritrea,” explains a detailed one reportexternal link the Observatory for asylum and immigration law in western Switzerlandexternal link (Observatoire romand du droit d’asile et des étrangers) on the pressure to which the Eritrean community is exposed.
Samson * has been in Switzerland for four years and suffers from the fact that he is not allowed to work: “I’m blocked, I don’t know what to do. It’s very stressful.”
To escape this situation, some are also trying to lodge an asylum application in another country. Yonas * went to Germany, but because of the Dublin Agreement external linksent back to Switzerland.
He has also been in Switzerland for four years. Under dreams of becoming a mechanic, gardener or even a lawyer. “When I left home, I thought my problems were behind me, but in truth they were with me to this point,” complains Yonas.
All these young Eritreans speak French well, but they feel a lump in their throats and struggle for words when they talk about their life in Switzerland and their future prospects. “I feel bad and have trouble sleeping and concentrating,” explains Robel, who has been in Geneva for 2 years. “I thought I would find happiness and freedom here, but I haven’t found anything.”
Impossible to return
If the authorities inform the rejected asylum seekers that they are obliged to leave Switzerland, they offer them one Return assistanceexternal link but none of them consider returning.
Eritrea is ruled by a dictator who owns his people; it is a country where crimes against humanity occur, as in one reportexternal link of the United Nations (U.N.external link) means: “The officials in Eritrea have been persistent, widespread and systematic against the civilian population since 1991. Since then they have committed crimes such as slavery, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and torture, as well as other inhuman acts such as persecution, rape and murder.”
“We don’t come here for the money, we’re just looking for freedom”
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Hayat * would like to tell what happened to him so that we can better understand the situation of the Eritrean refugees. He explains that in Eritrea everyone should serve in the army for an indefinite period of time. The population is not free to do an education of their own choosing or to work where they want. And many people would disappear without their families ever being informed of their imprisonment or death.
Hayat’s father disappeared, imprisoning himself when he was only 16 years old. He was beaten, tied up and locked in a cage. During a transfer, the young man managed to escape. He crossed Sudan, Libya and finally the Mediterranean. In the beginning he was on the road with around 25 people. Only three of them arrived in Italy.
“We don’t come here for the money, we’re just looking for freedom,” explains Hayat, who has just received good news: his appeal was accepted, it was temporarily accepted.
The young man can now continue his training with an electrician, which he would have had to break off from one day to the next if he had been turned away. But it’s a pretty bitter victory as all of his friends are still waiting for a decision or have already been turned down for good.
A “kafkaesque” system
“It’s complicated for them: first they find an island of peace here and then they are told to go again,” explains one volunteer. She tries to help the young people as best she can, but often feels powerless.
There is no overall picture of the person concerned, everything is fragmented: someone is responsible for medical care, another body for accommodation, etc.
One first shotexternal link Asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected to at least get training and work. But you can only being taughtexternal linkif the deportation runs contrary to Switzerland’s obligations under international law, if it puts the person concerned in concrete danger or if it is not physically enforceable.
“Eritrean asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected and who have received an eviction order are legally allowed to leave Switzerland,” says the State Secretariat for Migrationexternal link (REM). “At the moment, forced returns are not possible, but voluntary returns are.”
“Forced repatriations are not possible, but voluntary returns are”
State Secretariat for Migration
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According to the SEM, it would be wrong to voluntarily grant rejected persons who refuse to leave the country just because Switzerland cannot carry out the forced repatriations. “In order to reward those people who die, make it clear from the start that. They will not comply with their obligation to leave the country, although they are dependent on the protection of Switzerland, they do not depend on the beginning of Switzerland and therefore leave the country.”
The SEM also reminds that a rejected person who decides to stay here in spite of everything no longer has the right to social assistance, but only to emergency aid. The aim is “to ensure that those affected voluntarily fulfill their duty to leave Switzerland, as there are no longer any significant incentives to stay here.”
The cantons are responsible for providing emergency aid and looking after rejected asylum seekers, as they are often perplexed by these people who can neither work nor do training. “It’s difficult to stay positive and keep these young people motivated,” explains a social worker who works with them in Geneva.
At the beginning of February one took place in Lausanne Conference on Western Switzerlandexternal link on the subject of rejected young migrants who do not have access to training. Apprentices, employers, asylum specialists and teachers launched one appealexternal link, in which the federal and cantonal authorities are asked to make it possible for the young people to complete their training, even in the event of a negative asylum decision.
And in Geneva there will be signatures for one Online petitionexternal link collected, calls on the government and parliament of the canton not to exclude Eritrean asylum seekers from social welfare and to allow them to do training and work.
More restrictive asylum policy
The trend of the last few years towards a more stringent asylum policy at the federal level appears to be continuing. The SEM published a new one in 2016 reportexternal link on the location in Eritrea and tightened the screw further, a practice that went through recent decisionsexternal link administered by the Federal Constitutional Court.
The judges are now of the opinion that Eritrean asylum seekers can be sent back to their country, even if they are threatened with entry into the army on their return. The SEM initiated a review of more than 3000 Dos.
Associations for the protection of migrants and the Eritrean community are mobilizing against the tougher pace. In May last year around 1500 people took part in a rally in front of the Federal Palace in Bern. A petition with 12,000 signatures was handed over to the federal authorities. Die demands that every asylum seeker from Eritrea, who is threatened with abuse in his home country, be granted asylum.
However, the Council of States (Small Chamber of Parliament) refused to accept the petition because it supported the stricter approach of the SEM in this area with a large majority.
* Names known to the editors.
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