Comment on three deaths of refugees in autumn 2017 and one still birth in 2014

Within the shortest time three refugees died due to police violence in autumn 2017 in switzerland. Subramaniam H. was shot dead by a policeman in Brissago/TI. In Lausanne, the police sought to transfer Lamin Fatty due to a mix-up and – to that end – held him in custody. The man, suffering from epilepsy, was denied medical aid and so he died in his cell. In Valzeina/GR, a young man from afghanistan was chased by the police to the point that he fell off a cliff and died. The silence of the media and the lack of consequences for the murderers demonstrate that, in switzerland, not all lives count equally.
The military tribunal seems to have shared this view when it punished a border guard – standing trial for the stillbirth of female refugee’s child – rather mildly. The border guard in question ignored the pregnant woman’s cries of pain, the blood running down her trousers and her husband’s pleas for medical aid, while they were kept in custody in the rooms of the border guard at the railway station of Brig in 2014. Despite the woman’s state, the frontier guard put the woman on the train to Domodossola and thus pushed off this “problem” to italy. Upon arrival, however, the premature baby had died. That woman was imprisoned, she was forced into the hands of a man who did not care at all about the fact that it was human beings he imprisoned. The woman had no possibility to get medical aid herself, and the baby is a dead human being, a killed child. It is this man, in the meantime standing on the platform and smoking, who is guilty of the child’s death. It is the migration regime treating human beings according to their economic value, that is guilty of this death. This is the true manifestation of the slogan „Borders kill“.

«I don’t expect anything much from life anymore»

Fahim sits in front of us and nods his head in a friendly way. We take this to mean we can start the interview. The young man doesn’t seem to care too much about what we do in our lives, how we make our money or if we belong to an organisation. Fahim tells us he has been in the deportation prison Bässlergut for some months now pending deportation. Before this he had spent several years in various other prisons – firstly in a juvenile detention centre and then in adult prisons. He says he has been in prison for far too long and is sure he must have more than finished his sentence by now.

When asked how the everyday life in an ordinary prison differs from that in a deportation centre like Bässlergut, he names the opportunity to work. In prison Fahim was responsible together with eight other inmates for preparing lunch and dinner for 140 people.

It was a strenuous job, and in the evening, I knew how hard I had worked.


For the 6½ hours a day that he worked, Fahim received 22 Swiss francs. He managed to save some money so that he doesn’t now have to work in Bässlergut.

Conditions in the deportation prison

Fahim tells us that the inmates in Bässlergut get on well with each other in general, even if communication is difficult, as most speak either English, French or Arabic but not German. He spends most of his time sleeping and doesn’t have much to do with the other prisoners or the wardens. He only sees the latter when he gets medication (for his gastric acid reflux), a shaver or food. Otherwise he’s by himself a lot. Until recently Fahim shared the cell with another inmate, but now he has been deported, Fahim has the cell to himself.

That doesn’t matter to me. On the contrary. I prefer to be alone. I don’t care what the mood in the prison is or how the others are doing. I’ve had enough of it all.

Ten people are currently detained in Fahim’s wing of the centre and all should be deported as soon as possible. The wing has single, two-, four- and eight-person cells, as well as a common-room with table football, a kettle for making tea, a table and three chairs.

Just yesterday an observation camera was installed in the common-room. Probably because some inmates smoked cigarettes while playing table football.

Unlike prison, the food here is awful, Fahim tells us. “Sometimes there is only soup and a piece of bread in the evening”. Everyone eats on their own in their cell.

Impending deportation

The first time Fahim heard that he was going to be deported was in a letter. This listed his crimes and the grounds for the deportation. Although Fahim put the letter aside, he tells us, he never forgot it. In fact, he always believed that he would be freed after having served his sentence. He received the letter at a time when he was on the run, having absconded from an open prison. But after a few months he turned himself in to the police. Because he had absconded he wasn’t allowed to return to an open prison but had to go to a detention centre instead, where he spent a further year.

At the detention centre you‘re in your cell for 23 hours a day and are only allowed out for one hour. It wasn’t until I wrote to the authorities that I was allowed to leave the detention centre.

Why he had to stay in the detention centre for such a long time, he still can’t explain. After the detention centre and following his trial Fahim spent a further two years and nine months in prison.

The authorities there are the worst when it comes to applying for early release on grounds of good behaviour or for holiday permits. I was neither granted leave, nor was I released early for good conduct. But that didn’t just happen to me, it was the same for most of the others too.

Two weeks before his release, he was told that he would be moved to Bässlergut in order to prepare for his deportation. Ever since then, Fahim has been fighting to be released, but a request to the Court of Appeal for discharge was denied. Although Fahim – as he tells us – hasn’t entirely given up hope, it’s diminishing day-by-day. Asked what he would do if he were actually released, Fahim says he would go to Sri Lanka for up to three months.

After that I would return to Europe, either to Germany or Austria, where I would have to stay at least five years before I could enter Switzerland again.

He tells us that he already has contacts in Austria. He knows a boxing club there and has already sent them videos of him boxing. The club would like to take him and would help him look for a job.

Prison & deportation as seen by Fahim

For Fahim a B-permit means much the same as an F- or C-permit. His younger brother and his father both have a C-permit; his mother a B-permit. Why his mother hasn’t got a C-permit despite being employed and having lived long in Switzerland, he doesn’t know. Like him, his older brother is in custody and is also threatened with deportation. Five years ago, a friend of his was deported to the Ivory Coast. „He’s in bad shape there, because all his relatives are in Switzerland“. Fahim thinks that a prison sentence may sometimes make sense, especially if it can help you gain an insight into your behaviour. When we ask Fahim if he would have given himself a prison sentence, he replies,

I have committed many crimes; even the police don’t know about many of them. Altogether, I think 4½ years in prison are warranted. Somehow or other I’ve earned such a long prison term.

However, he finds it difficult to accept that, after having served his prison sentence, someone should then be deported. He cannot understand how one can take everything – even family and friends – away from a person. Furthermore, he finds it absurd to invest a lot of money in integrating somebody into society, only to subsequently deport him. Fahim points out that he has changed a lot over the years and learned a great deal, but this doesn’t seem to interest the authorities. Although he has been living in Switzerland for 17 years and has no ties to Sri Lanka, he should be deported there.

I’ve paid my debt to society, served my sentence in prison. Now I am waiting for a miracle.


Politics and perspectives

Before he went to prison Fahim hadn’t thought much about prisons or deportation. „As long as you don’t have anything to do with them, the whole thing seems far away“. Fahim doesn’t know whether in the future he wants to fight against repressive measures such as imprisonment or deportation. He assumes that people would then point a finger at him and call him a criminal. To go to a demo would take a lot of courage for him, as they often end up with a confrontation with the police. His friends aren’t politically active either.

When I‘m released, I don’t want to do anything but work, box and spend time with my family. I don’t expect anything great from life anymore.

This article is based on a conversation the authors held with Fahim. For Fahim it was important that the article covered everything that we talked about and not just focus on one main point. Before the interview Fahim was offered the opportunity to narrate freely, but he preferred to answer questions which the authors had prepared in advance. The authors of this article have been arguing against Bässlergut for a long time. Their fundamental criticism of the prison is based on their rejection of the rule of one over others.

The deportation business

An angry knock at the door of his cell in Bässlergut Prison tells him that they’ve come to deport him. Aren* prepares to resist. The four policemen have to drag him out of the small room when he refuses to leave, kicking and beating him in the process, until he finally submits and is cuffed at his hands and feet, cutting off the blood flow. They put a helmet on his head and bring him to a car waiting in front of the prison. The car takes him from Basel to Geneva Airport where a level-4 special deportation flight to Liberia is waiting for him.

The second deportation

Once he arrives at the capital Monrovia, Aren is taken to an interview with the Liberian department of immigration. In a last-ditch effort to avoid deportation, he says that he is not a Liberian citizen at all. He says he’s actually from Nigeria. The ambiguity of his statements cause confusion in the tiny office, which apart from Aren comprises only one representative from the Liberian department of immigration; the Swiss officers are barred from sitting in on the talks. The representative finally refuses to accept Aren without clear identification. The officers, denied the opportunity of deportation without the necessary documents, fly him back to Switzerland. Once they touch down in Geneva they tell him he’s free to go. He is taken to the refugee center in Sissach where a doctor gives him a checkup. Injuries on ear, leg, knee, and hands lead the doctor to request an examination at the hospital nearby. But that will never happen: Aren is woken once again by a knocking on his cell and they bring him back to Bässlergut Prison. He is told that this time he’ll be deported to Nigeria. A second deportation in such a short time is unrealistic, Aren is sure of that. He is almost past the 18-month deportation time limit. According to Swiss law he’s allowed to go free after this period. And he is sure that no one believes that he really is Nigerian, because when he applied for asylum he clearly stated that he is Liberian. The Swiss department for immigration did not believe him and initiated an inquiry with a Nigerian delegation of experts who stated that they did not believe Aren to have Nigerian citizenship.
Aren’s hopes were disappointed; a week later Aren is deported to Nigeria in a joint flight commissioned by Frontex. There is no further interview with the Nigerian embassy, but replacement documents (Laissez-passer) were issued all the same based on third party statements.

Migration partnerships

According to the asylum statistics by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Aren is one of 101 persons who were deported to Nigeria in 2016. Compared to other African countries Nigeria ranks highest, followed by Tunisia with 59 deportations.

2011 Switzerland and Nigeria concluded a migration partnership. The contract binds Nigeria through a readmission agreement to accept also involuntary deportations.

2011 Switzerland and Nigeria concluded a migration partnership. The contract binds Nigeria through a readmission agreement to accept also involuntary deportations.
The Swiss Government has already signed similar partnerships with Tunisia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and last October negotiations have begun with Sri Lanka. The aim of these partnerships is “to improve cooperation in the field of migration as well as to reduce illegal migration and its negative consequences.” (Art. 100 FNA). Accompanying this definition, the Foreign Nationals Act includes potential agreements, border control, deportations and job-related further trainings.
How these agreements are going to be implemented is unclear. Applications for scrutinizing the several thousand documents concerning the migration partnership agreement between Switzerland and Nigeria are still in progress. The few press releases by the Federal Council give scant insight into the partnership.One example is a pilot project aimed at cooperation between police forces which enabled stage-deployments of Nigerian police officers on Swiss soil. Furthermore, the migration partnership between Switzerland and Nigeria is being lauded for facilitating “innovative migration projects” in cooperation with the food company Nestlé. A statement released by the Federal Council on July 2, 2014 says: “The cooperation between the FOM (now called State Secretariat for Migration SEM) should be named as a good example. This private- and public-sector partnership supports the professional education of thirteen young men and women. The best five will be accepted for an internship in Switzerland in the summer of 2013.” When compared to the amount of deportations, that number seems like an absurd nuance with which the migration partnership and it’s cooperation with Nestlé is being legitimized.

Nestlés profit with water

Nigeria’s water resources are dwindling and the droughts caused by climate change make the land less and less arable. The consequences of these developments are growing conflicts surrounding the extant areas and migratory shifts from the countryside to the cities, which often do not have adequate infrastructure or enough work.
It is exactly from this scarcity that Nestlé profits. For years now, the Swiss company has been buying the rights to water supplies in Nigeria. In the official statement for “Pure Life”, a brand of bottled water they produce, it says that with their help jobs are created and access to clean drinking water is made possible. The fact that most people in Nigeria cannot afford to buy bottled water is omitted. The privatization of water supplies does not assist the access to clean drinking water it denies it.
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO and current president of the board of directors of Nestlé, said in reaction to allegations of profit oriented water productions: “Water is a grocery item. It should have a market value like any other. I personally believe that to appreciate water, it should have a market value so that we aware that it costs something.”
It is significant that the cooperation with Nestlé whose privatization of water supplies in Nigeria is well documented, and who disregards all existential realities, would be mentioned as an example for success of the migration partnership. It’s distinctive of an endemic hypocrisy to give privileges such as free movement, protection, and job opportunities to a select minority while repressing a majority that goes along with it. The migration partnership between Switzerland and Nigeria does not only institutionalize an inhumane deportation policy, much worse it supports the logic of a for-profit economy that endangers the daily lives of a large part of the population, which in turn results in migration.

Art. 28 from the force application law provides the following steps of enforcement:
Level 1: The person to be deported has agreed to return voluntarily. He/she is accompanied by the police to the airplane; the return takes place without accompaniment;
Level 2: The person to be deported has not agreed to a vountary return trip. Generally he/she is accompanied by two plainclothes police officers. If necessary handcuffs are used;
Level 3: It is to be expected that the deported person is going to physically resist, but the transport with a regular flight is possible. The deported person is accompanied by two plainclothes police officers. During the deportation handcuffs and other captivation-resources as well as physical force can be used;
Level 4: It is to be expected that the deported person is going to perform heavy physical resistance; A special flight is necessary for the transport. Each deported person is accompanied by at least two police officers. The same compulsion-resources as in level 3 can be applied.
Level 1 conforms to the colloquial „voluntary departure“, Level 2 to the „controlled deportation“ and Level 3 plus 4 to the „special flight“.


This text was written after an encounter in the deportation-prison with the person mentioned. The author of this text doesn‘t know about the conditions of the person who was being deported: After the deportation all contact got interrupted.

For further information about Nestlés water investments:

Another deportation from Basel to a third-country

In mid November 2016 a young man was deported from Switzerland to Guinea by plane. Besides him were twenty other individuals who were all being evicted to Guinea or Gambia. During the whole flight every single person was handcuffed and tied to a wheelchair. The flight was accompanied by an entourage of 40 people: police officers, the staff of the Swiss department of Migration and the staff of the anti torture commission. This particular procedure is called „Sonderflug“*.

Oumar lived in Switzerland for many years as a delegitimized individual. He was arrested during an identity check because he could not provide any ID. During his time in prison he repeatedly tried to resist against his deportation. In his home country he will be facing torture and imprisonment. On the day of his displacement, Oumar had spent over 17 months (with interruptions) in prison. The maximum duration of detention pending deportation in Switzerland is limited to 18 months, so this was the last opportunity for the Swiss officials to deport him.

* Art. 28 (Zwangsanwendungsverordnung) leads to following levels of execution:
Level of execution 4 (Level 4): If it is to be expected that the person who is to be deported will offer great physical resistance the transport is conducted with a special flight. Every person is accompanied by at least two police women or men when being deported.

Source [de]

** 1. The preparation and deportation custody according to articles 75-77 as well as the custody of enforcement according to article 78 are not allowed to exceed 6 months in sum.
2. The maximal length of custody can be prolonged by the canton’s juridical authority for a determinate time, yet at most for another twelve months, for minors between 15 and 18 years at most for another six months, if:

a. the concerning person does not cooperate with the responsible authority;
b. the conveyance of the required documents for the departure is deferred through a state which is not part of the Schengen.

Source [de]