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Learning English - Words in the News
28 July, 2004 - Published 13:49 GMT
Swiss Asylum Laws
asylum seeker
Asylum seekers could be forced to produce documents in 48 hours

The Swiss government is considering proposals to stop people applying for asylum if they cannot produce a valid ID within 48 hours. The UN refugee agency says this could break the 1951 Convention on Refugees. This report from Imogen Foulkes:

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The UN refugee agency has a number of concerns about the planned changes to Switzerland’s asylum laws, but most worrying of all, the agency believes, is the proposal on identity documents.

Many refugees flee their countries without papers; sometimes they have been confiscated by the authorities. Others never had identity cards in the first place. Some asylum-seekers give their papers to unscrupulous people-smugglers to help them across borders and never get them back again. All such cases deserve to have their requests for asylum heard, the agency says, even if they don't have valid documents.

The Swiss proposal to limit the time allowed to produce identity papers to 48 hours could, the UN believes, lead to people being forcibly returned to countries where they have been persecuted.

The refugee agency points out that applications for asylum are falling all over Europe, including Switzerland, and says there is no need for governments to focus so single-mindedly on restricting the asylum process.

But Switzerland's traditionally generous refugee policy is now in the hands of the far-right Justice Minister, Christoph Blocher, who came to office in December on a promise to crack down on illegal asylum-seekers.

Imogen Foulkes, BBC

Listen to the words

protection given to foreigners who have left their own country for political reasons

run away from, escape from

if you confiscate something from someone, you take it away from them

dishonest; unscrupulous people are prepared to act dishonestly and without consideration for other people in order to get what they want

forcibly returned
forced to go back

treated cruelly and unfairly

here, decreasing

if you are single-minded, you have only one aim, and you are determined to achieve it

if you restrict something, you put a limit on it

crack down on
use the law to stop

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