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28 July, 2004 - Published 13:49 GMT
Swiss Asylum Laws
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:
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
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