Eritrean Project

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We have launched a project to counter discrimination against Eritrean asylum seekers in Switzerland. We need your support to make sure that their fundamental rights are respected.

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We need to raise 20,000 CHF to complete this project. Please donate generously!

Discrimination against Eritreans in Switzerland

The abysmal human rights situation in Eritrea has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to flee from persecution. For many years, Switzerland provided safe haven to Eritrean nationals, recognising their need for international protection. They constitute the largest group of refugees in Switzerland.

However, in mid-2016, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) undertook a significant tightening of the asylum policy – confirmed in 2017 by the Federal Administrative Court (FAC) – denying protection to thousands of individuals despite the fact that the human rights situation in Eritrea has not changed.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement at the UN Human Rights Council session in July 2019, noted:

« Eritreans continue to face arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and violations of freedom of expression, assembly and religion. Individuals continue to be held incommunicado and detained indefinitely, denied basic due process rights, without access to legal counsel, judicial review, or family visits, some for decades.« 

In spite of overwhelming evidence of the risk of torture, Switzerland stands out as the only European country to consider Eritrea safe for persons of draft age who have left the country illegally. This policy targets Eritreans specifically (see our submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea).

At the international level, Switzerland stands out by issuing removal decisions: no European State carries out expulsions to Eritrea.

Observatoire du droit d’asile et des etrangers (ODAE)

The Consequences

Eritreans are being denied protection and are ordered to leave the country. Given that Switzerland has no readmission agreement with Eritrea, forcible returns are not actually possible. The consequence is that Eritrean nationals with final removal are condemned to a life without legal status. This growing class of statusless Eritreans survive on emergency aid for an indefinite period, with no possibility of working or continuing their education. Under Swiss immigration law, they also risk arrest and detention for failing to comply with the expulsion order. This situation is deeply distressing and undignified for the affected individuals who are essentially condemned to live in a « legal limbo ».

The policies of the Swiss authorities not only affect newcomers, but also Eritreans who have already been admitted to Switzerland (sometimes for a period of time) before the change in practice, and whose permits are being revoked by the Swiss authorities (see SEM Press Release).

Chart by Visualizer

Our Objective

The CSDM considers that the practice of refusing international protection to Eritrean asylum seekers in Switzerland is in breach of international law, and is discriminatory because it targets Eritrean nationals specifically.

There is clear evidence that individuals face a risk of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and forced labour upon return to Eritrea, and therefore fulfil the defintion of refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is confirmed by the latest report of the European Aslum Support Office (EASO).

Our objective is to challenge the position of Swiss authorities through lobbying and litigation before United Nations treaty bodies and the European Court of Human Rights relying on established international legal principles and human rights law.

The CSDM considers that the practice of refusing to grant protection to Eritrean asylum seekers in Switzerland is discriminatory and in violation of international law.

Our Plan

In order to achieve this objective, we plan to:

1) Lobbying

  • Submit an alternative report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in the context of its review of Switzerland’s report (101st session, 20 April to 8 May 2020).
  • Follow-up on our allegation letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea.

2) Strategic Litigation

  • Preparation, submission and follow-up of individual complaint(s) to CERD.
  • Follow-up of our pending cases (N.A. v. Switzerland, Applic. no. 52306/18; B.G. v. Switzerland, Applic. no. 48334/19; D.S. v. Switzerland, CAT Comm. no. 953/2019).

3) Visibility

Maintaining visibility for the issue of discrimination of Eritrean asylum seekers by

  • Disseminating information on this issue including web content and publicising our alternative report.
  • Continued outreach with relevant stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the project.

Your Support

Your financial contribution is vital! It will enable our expert legal team to allocate time and resources to work on this project through the creation of a part-time post (at 30%) during 2020.

You can make a donation using the Donate Now button above. Alternatively, your donations can be made to our postal account: CCP 14-648521-1.

If you would like to receive a payment slip, please send us an email request to

Your donation is tax deductible. Contact us for a donation certificate at