A Syrian Refugee in Switzerland: Jailed for Survival, While Government Holds Humanitarian Speeches
It was the 13th of February when Rasha Alzrir, a young Syrian woman, met Charly Pache, the co-vice President of the Swiss Pirate Party, in a train in Switzerland. 26-year-old Rasha was a bank employee in the city of Damascus and left her country due to persisting violence and civil war-like circumstances. She had lost her car and apartment when she decided to flee to Europe. She came through Germany, Italy and finally arrived in Switzerland with a Schengen-visa from Italy, where she asked for asylum.
On February 23rd, Rasha’s sister contacted Charly Pacha through Rasha’s Facebook page. Rasha hadn’t been answering her phone for a few days and her family back home was worried. He gave her the number of the police and of the office for migrations.
The next day bad news broke. Rasha’s asylum had been rejected. She was arrested for the first time in her life and was being held in a detention center, waiting for Italy to give green light for her extradition.
Refugees face inhumane and degrading treatment in Italy. Courts in Germany have recognized such and have therefore prohibited any further extradition of Syrian refugees to Italy. They lack any effective asylum policy and consequently are unable to grant protection to asylum seekers.
On the morning of February 26, the Federal President of Switzerland, Didier Burkhalter, gave a speech at the opening of the 22nd Human Rights Committee of the UN, condemning “all the human rights violations committed in Syria” suggesting that “the continuing violence has devastating consequences for the people of the country”. He added “After two years of bloody conflict, Syria has become a human catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe.”
On Wednesday March 13 Rasha will be extradited to Italy, if the Federal Council doesn’t pick up her case for review by today, Monday March 11. Rasha’s support committee, with the help of Representative Luc Barthassat, will ask the Federal Council of Switzerland a direct and urgent question in order to bring his attention to this specific case. Today, the Federal Council is expected to give his official reply, which could effectively change Rasha’s fate and the fate of many other Syrian Refugees.
Switzerland is dealing with a discrepancy between the official discourse and reality. When will Switzerland officially recognize Syrians as refugees and match its words with actions?
This country has a long tradition of humanistic duty, to be a shelter for victims of conflict. According to the confession of Mr. Burkhalter, the conditions in Syria are indefensible and a rare violence against the civilian population. Thus the question remains, why Switzerland fails to recognize Rasha as a refugee while publicly describing the horrific circumstances of her home country. Furthermore, Switzerland is bound by its own asylum policy, which requires a rejected asylum seeker to be sent back to the country of first arrival. For Rasha this country was Germany, not Italy.
Citizens must demand that reality corresponds with the humanitarian official discourse of the government. What the world is taught to believe about Switzerland and its “exemplary human rights compliance”, is the Switzerland that Rasha and other refugees should get to experience.