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Most Vaud asylum seekers lose fight to stay

One of the families faced with expulsion in Vaud Keystone Archive

Less than ten per cent of 523 rejected asylum seekers in canton Vaud, whose cases were under review, have been granted permission to stay in the country.

This content was published on December 14, 2004 - 18:55

Human-rights group Amnesty International Switzerland has condemned the Federal Refugee Office's decision as “arbitrary”.

Controversy over the fate of the asylum seekers started after 523 people had their residency applications rejected by federal authorities earlier this year.

The move caused a public outcry and led to the creation of a working group, made up of officials from canton Vaud and Amnesty International representatives, to review the cases.

The group then sent 115 cases concerning 291 people back to Bern to be examined again by the Federal Refugee Office.

“The Federal Refugee Office has carried out a new examination of these cases and has decided that in 17 cases, elements that had not yet been communicated by the cantonal authorities justified a positive outcome,” said the Refugee Office in a statement.

Few staying

This means that only the 45 people covered in these cases will be allowed to stay in Switzerland.

“The canton is now obliged to organise the rapid return of the people who have to leave Switzerland,” added the Refugee Office.

Vaud was the only canton not to follow instructions issued by the federal authorities to expel rejected asylum seekers.

The Swiss branch of Amnesty International has attacked the decision.

In a statement released on Tuesday, it said it was “disappointed” by the Federal Refugee Office’s handling of the cases.

It said neither the cantonal authorities nor the asylum seekers had received an explanation as to why certain cases had been rejected.

Amnesty also called on Vaud to review an agreement on asylum with the justice ministry, of which the Federal Refugee Office is a part.

UNHCR

Tuesday's announcement came as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, was in Bern for talks with Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

In July the UNHCR said it was “seriously concerned” about plans to tighten Switzerland's asylum policy.

The proposals are supported by the justice minister and rightwing Swiss People’s Party figurehead, Christoph Blocher.

A UNHCR spokesman said Lubbers had declared his “availability” to Blocher, but had not received a response from the justice minister’s office regarding a possible meeting.

Blocher’s spokesman said the minister had been busy in parliament and had already met Lubbers in June.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

523 people had their residency applications rejected in canton Vaud earlier this year.
It has been announced that 45 people may stay.
Only 15 people have so far returned to their home countries.

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