Amnesty International has criticized Swiss moves to return Ethiopian asylum seekers to their homeland. The secret deal to cooperate with the Ethiopian intelligence services was exposed by the Tages Anzeiger newspaper on Thursday.
After years of foot-dragging, the Ethiopian government bowed to European Union (EU) demands last month to repatriate failed asylum seekers. Switzerland has piggy-backed on the agreement, its migration office confirmed to the Tages Anzeiger.
Because many asylum seekers arrive in Switzerland without official documents, the Ethiopian secret service has agreed to help identify people. The Swiss chapter of Amnesty Internationalexternal link has condemned such cooperation “with undoubtedly an extremely oppressive state”.
There are currently around 1,500 Ethiopians living in Switzerland and some 300 pending deportation cases. Until now, Ethiopia has refused to repatriate failed asylum seekers, a stance which met with condemnation by the EU and Switzerland. One such case is an Ethiopian ‘hate preacher’ who was convicted in Switzerland last November.
A migration office spokesman told the Tages Anzeiger that each deportation case would be treated on an individual basis and that the procedure is highly regulated.
Last August, a Swiss court ruling opened the way for more Eritrean asylum seekers to be repatriated to Ethiopa’s neighbouring country. This could affect some 3,200 people who came to Switzerland from the country seeking asylum. Several people have received letters stating that their cases are being reviewed.