Deportation: modalities, responsibilities and principles

Foreign persons who are not permitted to remain in Switzerland must leave Switzerland and the Schengen area. The obligation to leave is enforced in the following ways:

  • Asylum matters → Removal order (Asylum Act/SEM responsible): SEM decides whether to grant or refuse asylum. If SEM rejects an application for asylum or does not enter into the substance of the case, it usually orders the person concerned to be removed and the removal decision to be enforced.
  • Matters concerning foreign nationals → Removal order (FNIA/cantonal migration authorities): The cantonal migration authorities issue a removal order against foreign nationals who are staying unlawfully in Switzerland.
  • Security → Expulsion (FNIA/fedpol): fedpol can order the expulsion of foreign nationals to safeguard Switzerland’s internal or external security.
  • Criminal law → Judicial expulsion (SCC and MCC/criminal courts): Criminal courts can or, depending on the offence committed, must order the accused to be deported in the event of conviction.

Persons ordered to leave are normally given a deadline by which they have to leave Switzerland. If they fail to comply with this deadline, they can be deported.

The term ‘deportation’ means the forcible implementation of removals in the field of asylum and immigration, expulsions and judicial expulsion orders.

The cantons are responsible for deportations, with support from SEM. This includes assistance in obtaining travel documents and in organising departure.

The general requirements, the method and the way in which coercive and other enforcement measures are applied by the authorities during deportation procedures are regulated in the Use of Force Act and the Use of Force Ordinance. There are four different enforcement levels for deportations, which range from a police escort to the aircraft (Enforcement Level 1) to a police escort on a special flight (Enforcement Level 4). The decision on the enforcement level is determined by the specific circumstances of each case and by the behaviour expected from the person being deported.

There have been various recent developments in the Schengen rules relating to returns. The EU Return Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in the member states for retuning illegally staying third-country nationals is a key document. Experts from other Schengen States and the European Commission regularly review compliance with and enforcement of Schengen obligations relating to returns in Schengen evaluations.

Last modification 26.04.2021

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