The cost of returning asylum-seekers to their home countries climbed to more than CHF4 million ($4.5 million) in 2013, almost CHF1 million more than in 2012 – despite the fact that fewer people were repatriated.
Higher payments to airports and for accompanying physicians are to blame, the government said.
The figures, reported by Swiss public radio, SRF, on Thursday, were released in response to a query by Parliamentarian Heinz Brand of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, who called the higher costs “exorbitant”.
Two factors contributed to the increase, according to the government: cantons with airports were reimbursed at a higher level for special flights (CHF1,700 instead of CHF250), and the costs for medical accompaniment by doctors during repatriation flights almost doubled, to CHF2,200.
Medical accompaniment by doctors became an issue in March 2010, when a Nigerian deportee died at Zurich airport after being forcibly restrained. Although an autopsy found he suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition, all deportation flights were temporarily halted.
And in July 2013 the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) gave “lukewarm” marks to the 31 special deportation flights, carrying 159 foreigners, which it accompanied between July 2012 and April 2013.
On Thursday, NCPT’s Vice-President, Alberto Achermann, told SRF that Switzerland “is among the countries with the strictest implementation procedures in Europe. Coercive measures are applied most frequently here. This can often lead to increased risks, and thus medical accompaniment is urged”.
A working group comprising the involved parties is currently evaluating whether further changes are needed in the repatriation process.