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General News of Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Source: Neue Z?rcher Zeitung AG

Switzerland Will Not Accept Ghanaian Asylum Seekers

..."Safe" list blocks asylum requests from 40 nations

Switzerland has for the first time published a list of countries from which it will no longer accept asylum requests. Ghana is one of the countrues on the list.

The Federal Refugee Office on Wednesday said asylum applications from 40 “safe” nations - where human rights are deemed to be respected - would automatically be rejected.

The list, which will be applied from Swiss National Day on August 1, comes three months ahead of the general elections, with asylum laws and the treatment of refugees among the most sensitive issues on the political agenda.

Saving time

The Federal Refugee Office said the list was aimed at speeding up the time taken to process asylum requests.

“A decision on whether to accept an application will now be possible within a couple of days,” spokesman Dominique Boillat told swissinfo.

“The Refugee Office will be looking to answer two questions,” he continued. “Whether asylum should be granted, and if repatriation is possible.”

"Safe" states

Eleven per cent of the 26,125 asylum requests recorded last year were made by people coming from “safe” countries.

Balkan states like Bosnia and Macedonia are on the list, as well as the ten mostly Eastern European countries which will join the European Union in 2004.

Correspondents say the inclusion of EU member states on the list will help Swiss authorities prevent an influx of groups like the Roma, who illegally entered Switzerland from France during the second half of 2002 before being sent back to Romania.

The African nations of Senegal, Ghana and Gambia are also listed, along with Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, Mongolia, India, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

Human rights

Boillat explained that respect for human rights and international conventions were the two criteria that determined a “safe” country.

Even if an asylum request is turned down, he said, this did not spell immediate repatriation.

“Applicants can stay here in certain instances for example if they are threatened by the mafia, if their home state cannot protect them, or if a woman has been the victim of rape,” he said.

But even in those cases, the stay in Switzerland would only be temporary and applicants would not be recognised as refugees, he said.