Statement of 10 March 2020

End the violence against refugees now!

Dramatic pictures are reaching us from the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of refugees have been converging and becoming stranded under precarious conditions since Turkey opened its borders in late February. Reports are that the Greek police are using tear gas as well as physical violence to stop refugees crossing the border. No asylum applications can be submitted, as the Greek Government announced a one-month suspension of the right of asylum in early March.

Implement the right of asylum

Under international law, refugees are guaranteed the right to file an asylum application in another country. Under EU asylum law, which is also binding on Greece, no-one may be turned away without having their case examined individually. HEKS/EPER is urging the Federal Council to work with the EU to ensure the enforcement of existing asylum law and the immediate cessation of violence against refugees at the EU's external borders. Switzerland too bears its share of responsibility in the fair distribution of people seeking protection across the countries in Europe and in allowing refugees to enter Switzerland to have their asylum application examined. The requisite structures already exist in the form of the new federal asylum centres.

Stoppt die Gewalt gegen Flüchtlinge in Griechenland
imago images/Xinhua

HEKS/EPER calls for safe and legal routes into Switzerland

For years now, HEKS/EPER has been calling for Switzerland to establish safe and legal routes into Switzerland for refugees, most recently through a petition ( addressed to the Federal Council. People in need of protection – such as those fleeing war or persecution – have a right to the protection of life and limb and must have the possibility to submit an application for asylum in a safe country. Europe's increasing self-isolation is making this ever more difficult, however. It is often the most vulnerable who are left behind in war zones, as they find it impossible to reach a safe country unaided. Switzerland can and should do more. HEKS/EPER is therefore calling for Switzerland's admission quota for refugees to be substantially increased to 10,000 vulnerable people annually.

Humanitarian aid in northern Syria

In parallel to the precarious human rights situation at Europe's external borders, a severe humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in north-western Syria. Since October 2019 this has been the scene of fighting between Syrian and Turkish troops, supported by shifting alliances of militia and rebel groups, for territorial control. The main casualties are the civilian population. According to UNHCR, over 950,000 people have been forced to flee and are now dependent on humanitarian aid. HEKS/EPER is therefore scaling up its emergency assistance there and distributing badly needed food packages and hygiene articles (

Samuel Berner
Head of Media and Information Department
Samuel Berner

Phone: +41 44 360 88 25
Mobile: +41 76 461 88 70