Federal Office for Migration temporarily suspends repatriation to Sri Lanka

Keywords: Repatriation

Press Release, SEM, 04.09.2013

Bern. Non-government organisations (NGOs) have recently reported isolated cases of Sri Lankan nationals who have been arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities and tortured on return to their home country. The Federal Office for Migration (FOM) has taken fast and comprehensive action to investigate the cases that have been brought to its attention. The FOM has no factual knowledge to date as to whether and to what extent Sri Lankan returnees have been unlawfully treated. The imminent repatriation of Sri Lankan nationals has been suspended until the results of the investigations are known.

The FOM does not accept human rights’ violations. During the asylum proceedings, the FOM carefully investigates whether a person is at risk in their home country. However, this investigation requires the asylum applicant to disclose to the Swiss authorities all the relevant facts that may put them in danger.

The FOM has knowledge that two male returnees have been arrested in Sri Lanka. The Swiss Embassy in Colombo, which has been entrusted with the appropriate investigations, has requested information from the Sri Lanka authorities on the reasons for the arrests, the place of detention and the detainees’ state of health. At present the Swiss authorities do not know the reasons for the arrests or if the men have been unlawfully treated. The Swiss Embassy is in contact with the mens’ families. The Federal Administrative Court considered the repatriation of both men to be admissible and reasonable.

The FOM’s investigations are also taking into account other recently published reports by NGOs, which indicate that Sri Lankan nationals who have been repatriated or who have returned home voluntarily have been subject to unlawful treatment.

Precautionary measures

The imminent repatriation of Sri Lankan nationals has been suspended until the results of the investigations are known. The FOM will then decide whether there is need for action with regard to its current asylum and return practice. In addition, the FOM decided on 26 August 2013 to review the cases of all Sri Lankans who are to be repatriated.

Contrary to other reports, Sri Lanka is not on the list of countries the Federal Council has identified as being safe. The FOM monitors the situation in Sri Lanka continuously, basing its assessment on information from other sources including the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the UNHCR’s guidelines of 21 December 2012, on country reports by other European states and on the practice of the Federal Administrative Court.

Further information