Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 30/06/23


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Asylum seekers at the border (airports) have effective access to the NGOs mandated to provide legal representation at first instance (namely Caritas and Berner Rechtsberatungsstelle für Menschen in Not, see Border procedure: Legal assistance). The right of asylum seekers to access to UNHCR is not specifically regulated in Swiss national law. Access to legal assistance can be difficult for persons in detention, as their means to contact and find a legal representative within the short time limits for appeal (especially in case of inadmissibility decisions) are limited. However, free legal assistance was introduced at first instance to counter the introduction of tight deadlines with the restructured procedure (see Regular procedure: Legal assistance).

One serious difficulty in Switzerland is the access to NGOs and legal advice for persons who are located in remote federal accommodation centres.[1] Since the procedure in principle takes place exclusively in the federal asylum centre with processing facilities, the presence of NGOs responsible for ensuring the legal protection of asylum seekers is considerably reduced in remote federal accommodation centres. Concrete opportunities for access to other civil society organisations vary strongly depending on the location of both centres with and without processing facilities.

In cases where mandated legal representation decides not to appeal a negative decision because it would be doomed to fail (so-called “merits-test”), there are very few possibilities to seek assistance from another organisation or private lawyer. First of all, the time limit is very short, especially in the Dublin and accelerated procedure. Secondly, a ticket for transportation to a legal advisory office must be organised and finally, some legal advisory offices are only open one day per week. As a result, persons located in the countryside face clear disadvantages especially regarding the access to legal advice and therefore also access to some information and support.[2] Additionally, it is not guaranteed that another organisation will have the capacities to support the appeal. Private lawyers have to be paid.




[1] See below in the chapter on remote centres.

[2] For further information on this topic, see Thomas Segessenmann, Rechtsschutz in den Aussenstellen der Empfangs- und Verfahrenszentren des Bundes, ASYL 1/15, 14.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection