“Blocked” in Switzerland: rejected Eritrean asylum seekers

Thousands of rejected asylum seekers can neither be deported nor returned to their homeland. Many continue to live in Switzerland and receive emergency aid, but without any future prospects. Young Eritreans tell us their story.

Mewael * lives in Geneva with 10 francs a day. He has no right to do any training or work. To fill his days, he plays football, does minor work in the accommodation assigned to him or cooks in the house of the district association.

He is one of the thousands of people who did not receive asylum but can not return to their homeland and are now stuck here in Switzerland. In 2017, more than 8,000 external linkrejected asylum seekers have received emergency help external link, mostly in the form of shelter and food.

Mewael is about 20 years old. He fled Eritrea and came to Switzerland nearly three years ago. He filed an application for asylum and learned French while awaiting the decision of the authorities, which fell two years later: his request was denied, Mewael must leave Switzerland. However, he filed a complaint against the asylum decision and now clings to this weak hope.

The young man would like to do an apprenticeship as an electrician or mechanic, but he does not believe in it anymore. “Life in Switzerland is complicated,” sighs his friend Samson. “It’s not complicated, it’s dead,” Mewael replies with tears in her eyes.

Signaling has, but not completed

Among the rejected asylum seekers, there are many Eritreans in this situation because the Swiss government has not signed a readmission agreement with Eritrea. Therefore, it can not identify the rejected asylum seekers under duress.

“On an international level, Switzerland stands out because it has decision-making decisions: no European state makes signposts to Eritrea”, specifies a detailed report external link ofthe Western Switzerland Observatory for Asylum and Immigration Law external link(Observatoire romand du droit d’asile et des etrangers ) about the pressure to which the Eritrean community is exposed.

Samson * has been in Switzerland for four years and suffers from not being allowed to work: “I’m blocked, I do not know what to do, it’s very stressful.”

In order to escape this situation, some are trying to land asylum in another country. Yonas * went to Germany, but was sent back to Switzerland because of the Dublin agreement external link.

He too has been in Switzerland for four years. And he dreams of becoming a mechanic, gardener or even lawyer. “When I left home, I thought my problems were behind me, but in truth they accompanied me so far,” complains Yonas.

All these young Eritreans speak good French, but they feel a Kloss in the throat and wrestle for words when they talk about their lives in Switzerland and their future prospects. “I feel bad, have problems with sleep and concentration,” explains Robel, who has been in Geneva for two years. “I thought I would find happiness and freedom here, but I did not find anything.”

Return impossible

If the authorities inform the rejected asylum seekers that they are obliged to leave Switzerland, they offer them a return link, but none of them consider returning.

Eritrea is ruled by a dictator who oppresses his people; it is a country where there is a crime against humanity as described in a report external linkof the United Nations ( UN external link) says: “Those responsible in Eritrea go since 1991 persistent, widespread and systematic against the civilian population. Since then, they commit crimes such as slavery, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and torture, as well as other inhuman acts such as persecution, rape and murder. “

“We do not come here for the money, we are just looking for freedom”


Hayat * wants to tell what happened to him so we can better understand the situation of the Eritrean refugees. He explains that in Eritrea, everyone must serve in the army indefinitely. The population is not free to do their own education or to work where they want to. And many people would disappear without their families ever being informed about their imprisonment or death.

Hayat’s father disappeared, and he himself was imprisoned when he was only 16 years old. He was beaten, tied and locked in a cage. During a transfer the young man managed to escape. He crossed the Sudan, Libya and finally the Mediterranean. At the beginning he was traveling with about 25 people. Only three of them arrived in Italy.

“We do not come here for the money, we are just looking for freedom,” explains Hayat, who has just received good news: his appeal was accepted, he was provisionally admitted.

The young man can now continue his training with an electrician, which he would have had to break from one day to the next if he had been turned away. But it’s a pretty bitter victory, as all his friends are still waiting for a decision or have been finally rejected.

A “kafkaesque” system

“It’s complicated for them: First, they find an island of peace here, and then they’re told to leave,” a volunteer explains. She tries to help the young people as best she can, but often feels a sense of powerlessness.

There is no overall picture of the person concerned, everything is fragmented: someone is responsible for medical care, another place for accommodation, etc. The responsibility is shifted from one place to another, which leads to Kafkaesque situations.

A provisional external linkenables asylum seekers whose application has been refused, at least, to provide training and work. But it can only be granted external linkwhen the deportation contrary runs the obligations of Switzerland in the framework of international law if it brings the person actually in danger or physically is not enforceable.

“Eritrean asylum seekers whose application has been rejected and who have received a removal order are legally obliged to leave Switzerland,” according to the State Secretariat for Migration External Link(SEM). “At present, forced returns are not possible, but voluntary returns are already possible.”

In the opinion of the SEM, it would be wrong to grant a voluntary resignation to rejected persons who refuse to leave the country simply because Switzerland can not carry out the forced repatriations. “This would reward those persons who make it clear from the start that they will not fulfill their obligation to leave the country, even though they are not dependent on the protection of Switzerland and therefore have to leave the country.”

Limited help

The SEM also recalls that a rejected person, who decides to stay here despite everything, no longer has the right to social assistance, but only to emergency aid. The aim is to “ensure that the persons concerned voluntarily comply with their duty to leave Switzerland, as there are no material incentives left to stay here.”

Emergency services and the care of rejected asylum seekers are the responsibility of the cantons, who are often perplexed by these people who can neither work nor do any training. “It’s hard to stay positive and keep these young people motivated,” explains a social worker working with them in Geneva.


(State Secretariat for Migration)

In early February a place in Lausanne in western Switzerland Conference external linkon rejecting young migrants rather than who do not have access to education. Apprentices, employers, asylum experts and teachers launched an external link appealing to federal and cantonal authorities to allow young people to complete their education, even in the event of a negative asylum decision.

And in Geneva, signatures for an online petition external link arecollected, calling on the government and parliament of the canton not to exclude Eritrean asylum seekers from social assistance and to allow them to train and work.

More restrictive asylum policy

The trend of recent years towards a tightened asylum policy at the federal level seems to be continuing. The SEM published a new external link report on the situation in Eritrea in 2016 and further tightened the bolt, a practice backed by recent rulings bythe Federal Constitutional Court’s external link .

The judges now believe that Eritrean asylum-seekers can be returned to their country, even if they threaten to return to the army on return. The SEM initiated a review of more than 3,000 dossiers of Eritrean asylum seekers who had been provisionally admitted to clarify whether, in individual cases, expulsion is again reasonable.

Associations for the protection of migrants and the Eritrean community mobilize against the harder pace. In May last year, around 1500 people attended a rally outside the Bundeshaus in Bern. The petition was handed to the federal authorities with 12,000 signatures calling for asylum to be granted to every asylum seeker from Eritrea threatened with ill-treatment in his homeland.

However, the Council of States (Small chamber of parliament) refused to the petition to enter because it supports tougher approach of SEM in this area with a large majority.

Source: Dehai Eritrea Online