Political and security instability in many Middle Eastern countries, partic- ularly the seven-year-old conflict in Syria, has led to a dramatic rise in the number of asylum-seekers fleeing to the European continent for protec- tion, which resulted in an emergency situation that many EU bodies called in 2015 ‘a refugee crisis’. This crisis has posed a challenge and represent- ed a real test for the human rights standards of the European countries, including Switzerland.
Switzerland welcomes people who have been persecuted for political, reli- gious or ethnic reasons as proof of the tradition of Swiss humanism. They have welcomed thousands of people from different conflict areas, such as the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa. However, Switzerland is not a fa- vourite destination for refugees, due to the protracted asylum procedures of the Swiss government, represented in the complex bureaucracy. This is added to the complexity of sheltering and managing of asylum seekers, and the restrictions the Swiss government places on holders of certain types of humanitarian residences, such as temporary protectors.
The small number of unaccompanied children received by Switzerland, which in 2007 amounted to only 733 children (out of a total of 31,000 unac- companied children in Europe), means that the country is not a favoured place for these children. Despite the small number of refugee children in Switzerland, the conditions of their reception and handling their requests were very different among the Swiss cantons, which placed Switzerland - the incubator of major human rights organizations, including the United Nations - under a difficult test.
In this report, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor aims to examine the situation of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers, partic- ularly those from the Middle East, to Switzerland, the policies pursued by the Government in examining their applications and the difficulties they face as children and as asylum seekers in the country. With the aim of making recommendations to the Swiss Government to improve its policies towards these children in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international principles in dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers.