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Switzerland advances with plan to access asylum seekers’ digital data for ID verification

Switzerland advances with plan to access asylum seekers’ digital data for ID verification
 

Authorities in Switzerland are advancing a plan that will update the country’s immigration laws to grant border officials the power to verify digital data on the smartphones or other mobile devices of asylum seeker who cannot prove their identity, nationality or itinerary, according to the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration website.

The move comes at a time when the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration says that the country is facing numerous challenges following the growing number of asylum seekers arriving from different countries facing socio-political crises.

Switzerland is said to have received 24,511 asylum applications in 2022, a number which does not include refugees from Ukraine who are granted the S protection status, currently around 69,000 according to a recent tweet.

Consultations for the new digital data access policy are ongoing as the government seeks to revise the law, which will be vital in helping immigration officials, as well as border officials, to establish the nationality and identity of people seeking asylum in the country.

The proposed amendments would allow immigration controls to check the smartphones, computers or devices of asylum seekers under specific conditions, notably in circumstances where the identity or nationality of the asylum seekers in question cannot be established by other means.

Applicants will be informed of the searches.

The proposal has been put out for relevant stakeholders including civil society organizations and digital rights advocacy groups to make their inputs before a 19 June deadline, per a report by Swiss Info.

The plan will also specify which category of immigration officers will be allowed access to such data, and the asylum seekers will also be notified in advance if any data checks must be conducted on their devices.

In a related development, the foreign affairs committee of Switzerland’s House of Representatives, last month, wrote to immigration officials asking for all barriers impeding the rapid issuance of visas to victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria to be removed.

The call came as authorities insisted that all refugees seeking to enter Switzerland as a result of the disaster must hold identification documents such as their passports, writes Swiss Info. The Secretariat website states a valid travel document is still required.

Despite the call from the parliamentary committee, immigration authorities said for security reasons, they would not let in people who have no passports or any other form of identification.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said at the time that the country was willing to accept Turkish quake victims without any ID.

Switzerland launched the latest version of its biometric passport at the close of last year.

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