The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture was able to monitor 33 forced returns by air from Switzerland, from April to December 2021 | Photo: Pixabay
The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture was able to monitor 33 forced returns by air from Switzerland, from April to December 2021 | Photo: Pixabay

The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture has criticized Switzerland for using inappropriate force during deportation. One pregnant woman was restrained in front of her children and forced to breastfeed while handcuffed.

The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) described Switzerland's "inhuman" treatment of migrants during deportation processes in a new report.

The Swiss organization monitored around thirty deportations from Switzerland by air between April and December 2021 and published its findings in a September report.

“Although the handling of the returnees was generally professional and respectful, the Commission regrets the continued frequent use of partial restraints during the transfer and at the airport," the Commission said.

The NCPT observed 130 people, including six families and 15 children, repatriated in forced returns by air in 2021. Among them, three people returned to their country by themselves.

Woman forced to breastfeed handcuffed

In its report, the NCPT described the deportation of a mother, four months pregnant, as particularly "degrading and inhuman."

The Commission described how the pregnant woman was handcuffed in front of her children and kept restrained.

"She had to breastfeed while handcuffed, and the handcuffs were not removed during the medical examination," NCPT noted.

The Commission also described how the pregnant woman was carried "inappropriately" on a staircase by three or four police officers, even as she complained about pains in her stomach several times.

The Commission criticized that too much physical restraints took place during Switzerland's deportations and that this should be absolutely avoided. It said migrants forcibly restrained in the presence of children "can be traumatic for a child."

From file: Zurich, Switzerland | Photo: picture alliance/Robert Harding
From file: Zurich, Switzerland | Photo: picture alliance/Robert Harding

Amnesty investigation uncovers inhumane abuse

The conditions of federal asylum centers in Switzerland was also the subject of a 2021 report by Amnesty International.

The rights group launched an investigation after receiving alerts by security guards and victims of abuse from state-run centers.

Amnesty conducted interviews with 32 people, including fourteen victims of abuse, eighteen current and former security guards, lawyers, social workers and educators who had witnessed abuse. It also examined criminal complaints, medical documents and other relevant information.

The abuse described took place between January 2020 and April 2021 in asylum centers in Basel, Giffers, Boudry, Altstätten and Vallorbe.

Amnesty found cases of beatings, the use of pepper gel which harmed breathing, and the locking up of migrants in a metal container which resulted in hypothermia. The organization also reported cases of sustained force which restricted victims' breathing, leading to epileptic seizure or loss of consciousness.

In May 2021, Switzerland announced its intention to welcome 1,600 migrants to the country in 2022 and 2023.

The intake is based on immigration quotas the country follows. Switzerland indicated they would mostly welcome victims of ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East and the central Mediterranean region, as well as people fleeing persecution in their countries.

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