Changes to migration and asylum law
Under a 2005 asylum law approved by national referendum on 24 September 2006, access to the asylum procedure can be refused to people without national identity documents. The time frame for appeal against a decision to refuse consideration of an asylum case was reduced to five days in many instances, with no state-sponsored legal representation for those who cannot afford a lawyer. Under the new law, irregular migrants can be detained pending expulsion for up to two years while their identity is determined. Minors can be detained for up to one year, in contravention of international standards. In October the chair of the Federal Supreme Court, Dr Giusep Nay, expressed concern that the provisions in law relating to detention were not in line with Switzerland's international legal obligations.
Family reunification measures for migrants from outside the European Union were further restricted under a new migration law passed in September.
Violence against women
Figures released in October by the Federal Office of Statistics indicated that approximately 28 women die each year in Switzerland as a result of domestic violence. On 23 June Parliament amended the civil law permitting the expulsion of the aggressor from the shared home if requested by the victim of domestic violence. However, migrant women living in Switzerland for fewer than five years remained vulnerable to expulsion if they stopped cohabiting with the partner named on their residence permit.
Following a visit in January, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism noted that racism, xenophobia and discrimination were "trivialized" in political debate in Switzerland. He also observed strong evidence of institutional racism, including within the police. Allegations continued of ill-treatment, excessive use of force and racist abuse by police officers, and of subsequent impunity for the perpetrators.
Extraditions under diplomatic assurances
Three Turkish nationals who applied for asylum or
re-examination of an asylum claim in 2006 were arrested in response to an extradition request from Turkey, reportedly to face charges of involvement with armed opposition groups. Despite the risk of an unfair trial if returned to Turkey, the Swiss authorities agreed to the return of two of the applicants on the basis of a diplomatic assurance by the Turkish authorities that they would not be arbitrarily detained, tortured or unfairly tried. Appeals against the decision were pending. The third case was still pending an initial decision at the end of 2006.