Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions

Switzerland

Country Report: Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

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National law provides for the possibility to refuse (completely or partially), reduce or withdraw social benefits under explicit and exhaustive conditions. General restriction conditions of social benefits are foreseen in Article 83(1) AsylA, which provides for partial or total withdrawal of material reception conditions where the asylum seeker:

  1. Has obtained them or attempted to obtain them by providing untrue or incomplete information;
  2. Refuses to give the competent office information about their financial circumstances, or fails to authorise the office to obtain this information;
  3. Does not report important changes in his or her circumstances;
  4. Obviously neglects to improve his or her situation, in particular by refusing to accept reasonable work or accommodation allocated to him or her;
  5. Without consulting the competent office, terminates an employment contract or lease or is responsible for its termination and thereby exacerbates his or her situation;
  6. Uses social benefits improperly;
  7. Fails to comply with the instructions of the competent office despite the threat of the withdrawal of social benefits;
  8. Endangers public security or order;
  9. Has been prosecuted or convicted of a crime;
  10. Seriously and culpably fails to cooperate, in particular by refusing to disclose his or her identity; or
  11. Fails to comply with the instructions from staff responsible for the proceedings or from the accommodation facilities, thereby endangering order and security.

Restriction patterns are related to the obligation of the asylum seeker to collaborate with the authorities for the establishment of the facts (identity, financial situation, etc.), to reduce the reliance on social benefits by being ready to participate in the economic life, to reduce living expenditures, and to conform with Swiss law generally.

Emergency aid is however an unconditional right for everyone present on Swiss territory and unable to provide for him-or herself. The exclusion from social assistance has no impact on the entitlement to emergency aid. Even though reception conditions are not ideal, every asylum seeker (even dismissed or rejected) should find an accommodation place during their stay in Switzerland and be able to provide for their own (basic) needs.

The Asylum Act also provides for the possibility to exclude persons from a registration centre (or a remote location) who, through their behaviour, endanger others in that centre, disturb the peace or refuse to obey staff orders. The exclusion can however not exceed 24 hours and is subject to a decision made by the SEM.[1]             

An internal rule of procedure within federal centres provides for other kind of disciplinary sanctions: denial of exit permits, elimination of pocket money, ban on entering specific spaces, excluding federal asylum centres or remote locations and transfer to another unit.[2]

Before any reduction or withdrawal is ordered, an assessment of proportionality is made and the subsistence minimum has to be considered. The basic need is defined as “enforcement legal subsistence minimum” (betreibungsrechtliches Existenzminimum) and differs in each canton.

 

Specific centres for uncooperative asylum seekers

 

The new legislation of March 2019 introduced a legal basis for the creation of specific centres for uncooperative asylum seekers. Article 24a AsylA states that asylum seekers who endanger public security and order or who by their behaviour seriously disrupt the normal operation of the federal asylum centres may be accommodated by the SEM in special centres that are set up and run by the SEM or by cantonal authorities. Although applications cannot be lodged in those centres, procedures are carried out according to the same rules than in the usual federal asylum centres. At the time being, no such centre is operating, the only one ever opened in in Les Verrières, Canton of Neuchâtel was temporarily closed on 1 September 2019 after nine months with in average two inhabitants.[3] Plans for a second specific centre were put on hold because of the low numbers of asylum applications.

According to the law, the decision to send someone to a specific centre is taken either by the federal or the cantonal authorities. In its statement, the SEM indicated that only men would be placed in such centres.[4] The decision to place a person in a specific centre must respect the principle of proportionality. This is particularly important as it can only be contested with the appeal against the decision of the SEM regarding the asylum application, which is taken much later in the procedure. Therefore, no separate remedy exists against the decision to be assigned to a specific centre for uncooperative asylum seekers.

Grounds for assignment to a specific centre are defined in Article 15 AO1. According to this provision, a person can be assigned to a specific centre if he or she is in a federal asylum centre and endangers public security and order or who by his or her behaviour seriously disrupts the normal operation of the federal asylum centre. A danger to public security and order is assumed if there are concrete indications that the behaviour of the asylum seeker will with great probability lead to a breach of public security and order.

A serious disruption of the normal operation of the federal asylum centre is assumed in the following two situations:

  • First, if the asylum seeker seriously violates the house rules of the centre, especially if they have weapons or drugs, or if they repeatedly disregard a ban to leave the centre.
  • Second, if the person defies the instructions for behaviour by the head of the centre or their deputy and by this behaviour namely repeatedly disturbs, threatens or endangers the staff or other asylum seekers.

 


[1] Article 25(1)(e) Ordinance of the FDJP on the management of federal centres and accommodation at airports.

[2] SEM, Règlement Intérieur du centre fédéral (CFA) de Boudry géré par le SEM et destiné aux requérants d'asile et aux personnes à protéger, April 2018 (Non-public document).

[3] Information on it is available at: https://bit.ly/2VdzR5b.

[4] SEM, ‘Asile: ouverture du centre spécifique de la Confédération aux Verrières’, 3 December 2018, available (in French) at: https://bit.ly/2RwVZlr.

 

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