No systematic abuse of rights in asylum centres, says investigator
An independent report into claims of violations of asylum-seekers’ rights at federal asylum centres concludes that, although there were a few instances in which security staff had reacted disproportionately, any accusation of torture was “unjustified and false”.
Former federal judge Niklaus Oberholzer examined seven incidents inside the centres as part of an independent investigation requested by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) after allegations of abuse were made by rights groups last spring.
According to a statement released on Monday by the SEM, Oberholzer concludes in his report that there is “no evidence of systematic disregard for the rights of asylum-seekers or a general bias on the part of the security personnel”. However, in three of the seven cases he reviewed, security officers had “reacted disproportionately and possibly also unlawfully to a conflict situation.”
In three other cases, the measures taken by staff were justified because the residents involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the former judge said. In one case, there was “doubt as to whether the reaction […] was adequate.”
Oberholzer pointed out that six of the seven cases were currently subject to a criminal investigation by the authorities.
Clear rules for using ‘reflection rooms’
The report, which has not been released to the public, offers recommendations for SEM, including defining clear rules for the use of disciplinary measures, such as confinement to a “reflection room”. Oberholzer also called for improvements in training for security staff and for procedures to report the use of force.
The SEM said it would implement as many of the recommendations as possible, beginning with inserting the use of reflection rooms – which are often containers – into the ordinance on the operation of asylum centres.
Asylum-seekers in Switzerland have been accommodated in 16 federal centres since the introduction of accelerated asylum procedures in 2019. In May 2021, an investigation by Swiss public television RTS revealed claims of excessive use of force by security staff responding to problems involving asylum-seekers. Security in the centres is undertaken by private companies such as Securitas and Protectas.
In compliance with the JTI standards
More: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.