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Swiss court gives all-clear for asylum transfers to Italy

Published on October 22, 2021

Swiss authorities can resume the practice of sending rejected asylum-seeker families back to Italy, a federal court has ruled. The question had been on hold due to concerns about child welfare.

The ruling on Friday related to a mother and her underage child who had been refused asylum in Switzerland in March 2019. Having rejected their claim, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) wanted to send them back to Italy under European resettlement rules.

However, a 2018 decree by Matteo Salvini’s government in Rome, which toughened conditions for asylum seekers – especially their accommodation – had been deemed unsatisfactory by the Swiss federal administrative court, which put returns of refugees to Italy on ice.

So-called “initial reception centres” in Italy, where returned refugees were housed, were “over-populated and poorly equipped to meet the needs of the particularly vulnerable”, the court said. It was notably concerned about families with children and asylum seekers in bad health.

However, another decision by the Italian government in December 2020 overturned much of the Salvini decree, the court noted in its latest decision on Friday. The moratorium in sending asylum seekers back to Italy can thus also be reversed.

A January 2020 ruling by the court had already given the go-ahead for sending families and refugees in bad health back to Italy if Swiss authorities received assurances they would receive appropriate medical care and accommodation.

On Friday, the Swiss Refugee Council criticised the latest ruling, saying it went against the research and information available to it. Conditions are “more precarious than ever” for asylum seekers in Italy, it said.

It called on the Swiss authorities not to resume the practice of sending such people back over the border.