Deportation to Sri-Lanka, Syrian refugees in limbo: Swiss human rights diplomacy vs. Swiss asylum/migration policy

In his opening speech to the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (25.2.2013), Mr Burkhalter said that the continuing violence in Syria had devastating effects on the population in the country, especially on children. He strongly condemned all the human rights violations that have taken place in Syria. He also welcomed the recent recommendations of the commission of inquiry on Syria of the Human Rights Council on Syria, of which Swiss national Carla Del Ponte is a member. In its report of 18 February 2013 it detailed the extent and the gravity of the violations committed by all sides. He welcomed the commission’s proposal to the UN Security Council to refer the  situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Switzerland made this proposal to the UN Security Council in a letter signed by 58 states in the middle of January.

burkhalter-navi pillayMr. Burkhalter made a good speech and he seems determined in his job and ambitious. He should get along with Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga (head of the Department of Justice in charge of the Federal Office Migration). They actually do get along. I suggest therefore that they discuss about one matter : why do Syrian asylum-seekers wait so long to receive protection in Switzerland (asylum status or provisional admission). The Federal Office of Migration has worked on a priority basis : they deal first with Dublin or safe third country cases and they leave the real asylum-seekers -those who have good grounds to come to Switzerland- in limbo. Syrians are just an example, other serious cases (from Somalia, Iran) have been left unnoticed for years now. It is a shame. They put these cases on a stand-by pile and forget it. The shadow piles are huge.

In the last few months several deportations took place from the Administrative Detention Institution of Frambois (Geneva) despite all the human rights reports on impunity, forced disappearances and harrassment of ex-LTTE members on behalf of the Cinghalese authorities, military and security forces.

Why is that?

Human Rights Watch recently published a report on several cases of torture committed on deported rejected asylum-seekers which forced the UK authorities to stop the deportation of several Tamils ( And recently, Navi Pillay, head of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, expressed great critics against the lack of Colombo’s scrutiny into past and recent human rights abuses. On February 11, 2013, her office published its report on Sri Lanka ( which details concern in several areas, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, militarisation and land grabs. Navi Pillay encouraged the Human Rights Council to continue to increase its engagement on Sri Lanka and called for an international investigation into alleged human rights violations. But more recently, a documentary produced by Channel 4: No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, realised by Callum Macrae (2013), has been under great fire of Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha. He simply asked that the projection of the documentary at the UN be cancelled. He also asked that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty’s accreditation at the UN be suspended. But the film will neither be cancelled nor will the NGOs be suspended, it will be projected at the Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva (Grütli) on March 3 and 6.

A short preview of Sri Lanka’s war crime evidence can be viewed on Channel 4 ( The trailer can be watched on

Public declarations by high ranking Swiss officials and by high ranking UN officials like Navi Pillay, as well as the projection of human rights documentaries at film festivals should definitely give our Swiss Asylum Authorities the courage to take action in order to provide a better assistance to people who have endured great human rights abuses and to those who might probably endure more suffering on their return.

Navi Pillay’s speech can be viewed on Enjoy!

Une réflexion sur “Deportation to Sri-Lanka, Syrian refugees in limbo: Swiss human rights diplomacy vs. Swiss asylum/migration policy

  1. UN HRC disassociates itself from the screening of No Fire Zone at the UN Premises in Geneva, 28.2.2013

    The United Nations Human Rights Council has disassociated itself from the screening of the Channel 4 film “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” organized by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FIFDH to be held on Friday (01 March 2013) in Geneva at the UN premises.
    In response to a protest lodged by Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha last Monday, which was followed up with a meeting on Tuesday, the President of the UN Human Rights Council Ambassador Remigiusz A. Henczel in a letter dated 27 February 2013, has observed that such events “do not reflect an official position of the Council”.

    In his letter, President Henczel has observed that “the participation and consultation with the observers of the Human Rights Council, including INGOs, is based on arrangements, including Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, and practices observed by the Commission on Human Rights (rule 7 of the Council‘s Rules of Procedure)”. He further notes that “NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC have the right to organize side events”, and that “a large number of such meetings take place in the margins of the session and they do not reflect an official position of the Council”. He however adds that “the organizers of side events take full responsibility for the content of their events”.

    Sri Lanka on Monday lodged a formal protest against the screening of the latest Channel 4 film. In his letter addressed to Ambassador Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Aryasinha had obsereved that “Sri Lanka views this film, as well as the timing of its broadcast as part of a cynical, concerted and orchestrated campaign that is strategically driven, and clearly motivated by collateral political considerations”.
    28 February 2013

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