General (scope, criteria, time limits)
In Switzerland, all asylum seekers have to undergo the admissibility procedure. This procedure should take place in the first 3 weeks after the application for asylum has been filed, and is called the “preparatory phase”. Within this time, the SEM records the asylum seekers’ personal details and normally takes their fingerprints and photographs. It may collect additional biometric data, prepare reports on a person’s age, verify evidence and travel and identity documents and make enquiries specific to origin and identity. At this time, the asylum seekers will normally be interviewed by the SEM about their identity and their itinerary, and summarily about the reasons for leaving their country. On the basis of the gathered information, the SEM reaches the decision on admissibility, which aims to determine whether the decision should be examined on the merits or deemed inadmissible.
The reasons for rejecting an asylum application as inadmissible are similar, but not identical to the ones mentioned in Article 33 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, and can be found in Article 31a(1)-(3) AsylA.
An application is inadmissible where the asylum seeker:
- Can return to a Safe Third Country in which he or she has previously resided;
- Can be transferred to the responsible country [under the Dublin Association Agreement];
- Can return to a third country in which he or she has previously resided;
- Can travel to a third country for which he or she has a visa and where he or she may seek protection;
- Can travel to a third country where he or she has family or persons with whom he or she has close links; or
- Has applied solely for economic or medical reasons. In this case, normally a second interview will take place before the SEM takes the decision to dismiss the application.
The grounds relating to countries not listed as “safe third countries” in the Swiss list (see Safe Third Country) do not apply if there are indications that there is no effective protection against refoulement in the individual case.
Decisions to dismiss an application must normally be made within three working days of the application being filed or after the Dublin state concerned has agreed to the transfer request. In practice, these time limits are rarely respected.
The SEM delivered the following inadmissibility decisions from 2018 to 2021:
Inadmissibility decisions: 2018-2021
|Ground for inadmissibility||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Safe third country: Article 31a(1)(a) AsylA||255||303||248||479|
|Responsibility of another Dublin State: Article 31a(1)(b) AsylA||4,185||2,720||2,103||2,678|
|Country where the applicant has previously resided: Article 31a(1)(c) AsylA||2||3||4||9|
|Country where the applicant has family or persons with close links: Article 31a(1)(e) AsylA||2||8||7||1|
|Application made exclusively for economic or medical reasons: Article 31a(3) AsylA||258||221||156||156|
|Subsequent application: Article 111c(1) AsylA||21||27||6||12|
Source: SEM, 18 January 2018; 21 January 2019; 12 February 2020; 19 March 2021, 1 April 2022.
Every asylum seeker will be granted a first personal interview (which is in fact called Dublin Interview – see Personal interview) with questions about his or her identity and the itinerary. No personal interview was conducted with accompanied children under 12 years of age until 2021. A decision of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in 2020 that even children of young age must be heard in asylum procedures (see section on minors in Adequate support during the interview and credibility assessment). According to the SEM, they systematically interview accompanied minors aged 14 or over, whereas younger children are only interviewed directly if this is necessary to establish the facts. Since spring 2021, a right to be heard is systematically granted to parents of children below the age of 14 concerning the specific situation of these children. This right is granted in both Dublin and national procedures in order to take into account all elements relating to the particular situation of these young children and to determine whether a personal hearing of the latter is necessary. In this context, the providers of legal protection services have been informed of the new measures taken by the SEM. They were asked to discuss the particular situation of children under 14 years of age during the first interview with the family members and then to promptly inform the SEM of any specificities (obstacles to removal, specific grounds for asylum, conflict of interest with the parents, etc.) so as to enable the planning of a possible hearing of the minor under 14 years of age if this should prove necessary.
In the case of unaccompanied minors, there is no so-called Dublin Interview but a “first interview for unaccompanied minors”.
If the SEM decides to dismiss an application according to Article 31a(1) AsylA, there will be no second interview, but the asylum seeker is granted the right to be heard. This allows the person concerned to provide a statement in response to the intention of the SEM to dismiss the application.
The first short interview is the same as in the regular procedure (see section on Regular Procedure). The right to be heard regarding the inadmissibility decision is usually granted at the end of the first interview or subsequently in writing.
An appeal against a decision to dismiss an application must be filed before the Federal Administrative Court within 5 working days (while the deadline is of 7 working days in the accelerated procedure and 30 days in the extended procedure). The Ordinance COVID-19 Asylum has not extended this deadline (while it has extended that of 7 days in the accelerated procedure).
The relatively short time limit of five working days for lodging an appeal against a Dublin transfer decision constitutes an obstacle to lodging an appeal in cases where the free legal assistance renounces to appeal as the chances of success are considered very low. In those cases, applicants could theoretically approach a non-state-funded office for legal advice to ask for support. However, significant obstacles arise in practice, especially when asylum seekers are accommodated in federal centres situated in remote locations which are far away from independent legal advisory offices that are usually situated in urban areas.
In general, an appeal has automatic suspensive effect in Switzerland. Appeals against inadmissibility decisions also have automatic suspensive effect, except for Dublin decisions (see section on Dublin).
In principle, the Court should decide upon appeals against inadmissibility decisions within five working days, which is not observed in practice. Although this would be possible in principle, there are no personal hearings taking place in front of the court.
The other modalities of the appeal are the same as in the regular procedure.
The same rules as regards legal assistance under the regular procedure apply. See chapter on Legal assistance above.
 Article 26 AsylA.
 Article 36(2) AsylA.
 Article 31a(2) AsylA.
 Article 37 AsylA.
 Information provided by the SEM, 12 January 2018.
 Information provided by the SEM, 1 April 2022.
 Article 108 AsylA.
 Article 55(1) APA.
 Article 109 AsylA.