(TibetanReview.net, Aug24’20) – Swiss authorities want to renew a discreet agreement with China, signed in 2015, which allows officials from Beijing to enter the country and question Chinese citizens residing in it illegally, reported swissinfo.ch Aug 23. Almost all, if not all, Tibetans seeking asylum in Switzerland have cited Tibet under Chinese rule as the place of their origin. And Switzerland, like other countries, recognizes Tibet as part of China. However, Tibetans and Uighur are reportedly not under the purview of the agreement.
Citing NZZ am Sonntag, the report said the agreement, which was never officially published, would expire in December this year, and talks with the Chinese were ongoing to renew it.
An official from the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) was reported to have confirmed to the newspaper that contact had been made with Beijing about the renewal. As for the non-publication in 2015, SEM has maintained that this was due to it being an “administrative agreement”.
The report said the agreement allows Chinese officials to enter Switzerland for a period of two weeks – without official status – in order to investigate Chinese citizens found to be staying illegally in the Alpine Nation. Once identified, these people can be deported in collaboration with SEM.
The report said individuals affected by the agreement included rejected asylum seekers, illegal travellers, and those without identity papers. No Tibetan is known to have been deported under this arrangement so far, although many have got their asylum petitions rejected.
Indeed, SEM spokesman Daniel Bach has told the Keystone-SDA news agency Aug 23 that Tibetan and Uighur asylum seekers were not affected by the agreement and would not be sent back to China due to the threat of persecution they face. This has seen many of the rejected Tibetan asylum applicants being given a temporary residence permits.
SEM has said the agreement had been implemented just once to date, when a Chinese delegation arrived in Switzerland in 2016, leading to the deportation of 13 individuals, including four asylum seekers.
Nevertheless, Fabian Molina, a social democrat parliamentarian, has said the agreement with China was “absolutely unacceptable” and it should not be renewed.