No indication of systematic violence in federal asylum centres

Former Federal Supreme Court judge Niklaus Oberholzer has investigated on behalf of SEM whether undue force is used in federal asylum centres. In his report, he gives SEM an overall clean bill of health.

In the spring of this year, certain media sources and non-governmental organisations criticised SEM, claiming that excessive and systematic violence was used by security staff in federal asylum centres. There was even talk of torture. In his report, Oberholzer assesses in seven cases whether disproportionate coercion was used against asylum seekers and whether there is potential for improvement in organisational and operational terms.

Oberholzer finds that there is no evidence of a systematic disregard for the rights of asylum seekers or any general bias on the part of the security staff. He also states that the strong accusation of torture is misleading, unjustified and false. However, in three of the seven cases, he notes that security staff reacted disproportionately and potentially unlawfully to a conflict situation.

In his report, Oberholzer also makes recommendations for further improvements in security. As part of its violence prevention strategy, SEM has already implemented or initiated certain measures, including the appointment of conflict-prevention counsellors and Muslim pastoral carers. In the coming weeks and months, SEM will need to consider whether it should fill key positions in the security sector with its own staff and whether legislation on the use of police coercion or police measures should be made clearer.

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Violence prevention is a major goal

SEM attaches great importance to the prevention of violence in the asylum sector. The living conditions of asylum seekers in the asylum centres are to be improved in order to prevent violence. Moreover, SEM is looking at new ways of dealing with unruly asylum seekers.

In recent years, the unruly behaviour of some asylum seekers has increased the burden on the already highly stressed support and security staff in the federal asylum centres. Violent confrontations, in which asylum seekers are often under the influence of drugs, medication and alcohol, have often led to a tense atmosphere and a considerable strain on resources.

To address this problem, in 2021 SEM drew up a catalogue of measures.

The catalogue is divided into the sub-areas Accommodation and Medical, Asylum and Dublin Procedures incl. Return from Federal Asylum Centre, and Sanctions. For each area, measures are listed which will help to further improve the asylum sector: those that are tried and tested in practice, those that are planned but not yet implemented, and others that may prove promising.