For the Swiss migration authorities, it is difficult to catch Eritrean refugees on their home leave. That's why Switzerland wanted to send an official to the airport in Asmara - without success.
Refugees who go on holiday in their homeland keep making headlines. In recent years, however, only one nationality was in focus: the Eritreans.
The fact that many refugees travel back to their home countries for a few weeks is shown by the latest figures from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). In 2017, the authority deprived 231 people of their asylum status because they traveled illegally to their home country. That's an increase of 60 percent over the previous year. "The SEM carefully follows every clue," says Lukas Rieder, spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration.
But who now assumes that the authorities especially Eritreans go on the net, is mistaken. Eritrea is missing from the top three nations. You have to scroll down the rankings until the name Eritrea still appears on rank 8.
With only 4 cases in which the asylum status was revoked because of a home trip. "In public discourse, it is repeatedly assumed that there are many home trips of Eritrean citizens," says SEM spokesman Lukas Rieder. "But this is not confirmed by anybody. This shows that public perception and reality may not be exactly the same. »
Toni Locher, Honorary Consul of the State of Eritrea in Switzerland, says otherwise. For him, there is no question that the number of cases in connection with Eritrea can not coincide with reality. He draws comparison to 2016, when Eritrea celebrated 25 years of independence. At that time 120'000 foreigners had traveled to the country. "Of those, there were certainly some from Switzerland, who should not have been allowed to travel under Swiss law," says Locher.
"The Eritreans are just too clever to get caught," Locher continues. According to his statements, they travel from Switzerland to another country first, before continuing their journey by plane to Eritrea. This onward journey is virtually impossible to control by the Swiss migration authorities.
When may anyone travel home
Refugees are not allowed to travel to their home country. However, provisionally admitted persons are permitted in exceptional cases, as the State Secretariat for Migration informs. Especially in case of serious illness or death of family members. Last year, 2290 applications were submitted - 1384 of which rejected the Swiss authorities.
In 2015, the authorities developed a plan. The Swiss Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, which is also responsible for Eritrea, submitted an application to the Eritrean authorities: The embassy inquired whether a Swiss official could be positioned at the airport in Asmara - a so-called Airline Liaison Officer. Their official task: to help airlines with document control in third countries. Currently, Switzerland has airline liaison officer in five countries. The SEM gives no information about this.
But at least at the airport in Asmara the officer would have had another task: He should Eritreer, who sought protection in Switzerland, catch the unauthorized home leave and report it to the relevant Swiss registration office. This is confirmed by Katrin Schmitter, SEM spokeswoman, opposite watson. But the plan could never be implemented because the Eritrean authorities left the request unanswered.
"Fortunately, Eritrea was not willing to take part in this nasty game," says Toni Locher, who is frequently criticized for being close to the Eritrean regime. Traveling home is the right of every human being, Locher continues. "The Eritreans who travel to their homeland are not lying on the beach afterwards and are having well, as many media claim. But they each have a good reason for the journey. "As an example, he mentions a sick mother or the funeral of a friend.