ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland could try to expel as many as 3,200 Eritreans whose requests for asylum fail, marking a major policy switch in a country that has granted thousands temporary refuge, broadcaster SRF reported on Wednesday.
People from Eritrea - which has drawn criticism over its human rights record - topped the Swiss list of asylum seekers last year with nearly a fifth of the more than 18,000 overall requests. More than 13,700 Eritreans were in the asylum process in February.
The policy switch, hailed by conservatives and attacked by the left, followed a Swiss court ruling last year that Eritreans who have completed their military service can safely be sent home.
Now authorities have started to inform Eritreans that they have to leave, SRF’s Rundschau program said, although they cannot force people out as Switzerland lacks a treaty on repatriations with the Horn of Africa country.
It cited a letter sent by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) to an Eritrean woman who has lived in Switzerland since 2015 that her returning to Eritrea was “reasonable” and that it was revoking her temporary admission.
“At the moment we are reviewing around 3,200 temporary admissions for Eritreans,” an SEM spokesman told SRF, adding each case would be treated individually.
A Unitred Nations special rapporteur on the situation in Eritrea in March again expressed concerns about human rights violations across the country.
Eritrean leaders should be tried for crimes against humanity including torture, rape, murder and enslaving hundreds of thousands of people, an investigation set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council said in 2016.
Eritrea has said the U.N.’s allegations of human rights violations are biased and based on false information. It dismissed suggestions of crimes against humanity as laughable.
Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by David Stamp