Monday, September 25, 2006

Some Spectacular Swiss Sanity

The combined forces of bleeding heart woolly liberals, recalcitrant internationalists and tranzi wonks are having conniptions this morning following the news that the Swiss have spoken on the topic of asylum rather too frankly for their liking.

In particular, the UNHCR is frothing at the mouth at the suggestion that - HORRORS! - those wishing to claim asylum need to be able to show passports. From the Independent this morning:

However, the new laws, which will also oblige asylum-seekers to provide proof of
identity within 48 hours of their arrival in Switzerland, have been sharply
criticised by the United Nations refugee agency, which says that it is common
for genuine refugees not to have any means of identification.
Well, yes but...

In fact no. This is deliberately disingenuous. Looking at the detail, the more peculiar it is that UNHCR should have an issue. Here is the text of the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees (it's a large pdf, I'm afraid).

The relevant section is Article 31 (1):

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
Perhaps it would be helpful to have a look at a map of the area.

The more astute of you will have noticed that Switzerland is rather notably landlocked. Arrival at Switzerland's borders therefore cannot be done from the sea. To get into Switzerland, our asylum claimant must either travel by land through one of Italy, Austria, Germany or France or they have to fly in. So....

If our claimant travels by land, he cannot claim asylum in Switzerland because he should have done so in one of the four European Union countries through which he must have travelled - he has not "come directly from a territory where [his] life of freedom was threatened".

If he travels by air to fly direct into Switzerland, he would have to have had a passport in order for the airline to allow him to board in the country of departure.

So, either he cannot claim asylum in Switzerland or he should have a passport. I am struggling to see exactly why - in SWITZERLAND's CASE - this should be contentious.


James Higham said...

When I saw this:

...bleeding heart woolly liberals...

I thought, 'Another heartwarming P-G rant.' But the logic is impeccable. Take each of the points together and it is unassailable. Well done, P-G and up yours, detractors.

dearieme said...

And, to move from logical necessity to overpowering correlation, almost all our asylun seekers come from France.

J P Wilton said...

Concise but impeccable, PG.

Anonymous said...

I am struggling to see exactly why - in SWITZERLAND's CASE - this should be contentious.

Because then the same logic would apply to other states. For example Britain.

Force the Swiss to take paperless refugees and then everywhere else has to follow suit.

The Pedant-General said...


Welcome to Infinitives Unsplit - Do either toddle off to blogger and bag yourself a free username or at least sign yourself something anodyne or pseudonymic so that we can tell who you are.

Whilst I think you are absolutely right in your perception of motive, I see two problems with your analysis:

1) This particular argument does not apply to Britain in that it is possible to arrive on the coast and drag your half-starved carcass up the beach: there is a plausible paperless entry route that does not involve travel through another safe country.
2) We need to shout loud from the rooftops etc etc that the UNHCR has NO BUSINESS whatsoever to be complaining about this action from Switzerland. If they want to complain, they must change the rules of their OWN organisation FIRST.

Until they do so, they should be pointed at their own rules then instructed to "go forth and multiply".


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