News media report that a number of towns in Switzerland have introduced draconian restrictions on asylum seekers.
According to the Independent, officials from the Swiss town of Bremgarten said refugees would not be allowed to “loiter” in school playgrounds and would be banned from visiting public swimming pools, playing fields and a church.
“We have decided on security grounds not to allow access to these areas, to prevent conflict and guard against possible drug use,” the town’s mayor was quoted as saying.
BBC News reports today that the mayor of the town of Menzingen said asylum seekers should be banned from “sensitive areas” such as the vicinity of a school. “This is certainly a very difficult area, because here asylum-seekers could meet our schoolchildren – young girls or young boys,” he said.
The Daily Telegraph reported that similar restrictions have also been introduced in the town of Nottwil.
According to the Independent, the head of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Immigration endorsed the restrictions, saying the country needs rules to ensure a peaceful and orderly coexistence of residents and asylum seekers.
The Independent called the restrictions “apartheid-style”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the restrictions have provoked anger, with the charity Swiss Refugee Aid describing the segregation policy as “untenable on legal and humanitarian grounds”.
Human Rights Watch‘s Gerry Simpson called it “shocking”.
“For Switzerland, the home of the United Nations and its refugee agency, to introduce a blatantly discriminatory policy that effectively segregates asylum seekers from the communities in which they live is shocking … The Swiss authorities should encourage all Swiss communities to treat some of the world’s most vulnerable people with respect and dignity, rather than reinforcing prejudice and division,” Simpson was quoted as saying.
The BBC’s Geneva corespondent says the controversy reflects growing voter unease at the number of asylum seekers in Switzerland.
According to BBC News, there are 48,000 people seeking asylum in Switzerland, said to be among the highest figure in Europe per head of population.
The Independent notes that several Swiss army bunkers have been decommissioned and turned into refugee centres. A curfew forbids the asylum seekers from leaving the premises after 5pm.