By Biodun Busari

The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) has criticized Switzerland for using handcuffing a pregnant woman while she breastfed her child.

The commission reported this as one of the many inhumane treatments and inappropriate forces the Swiss government has meted out to migrants during deportation.

According to InfoMigrants, NCPT described Switzerland’s “inhuman” treatment of migrants in a new report published this month.

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The report monitored around thirty deportations from Switzerland by air between April and December 2021 and published its findings in a September report.

“Although the handling of the returnees was generally professional and respectful, the Commission regrets the continued frequent use of partial restraints during the transfer and at the airport,” the commission said.

The NCPT observed 130 people, including six families and 15 children, repatriated in forced returns by air in 2021. Among them, three people returned to their country by themselves.

Woman forced to breastfeed handcuffed

In its report, the NCPT described the deportation of a mother, four months pregnant as “degrading and inhuman.”

The commission described how the pregnant woman was handcuffed in front of her children and kept restrained.

“She had to breastfeed while handcuffed, and the handcuffs were not removed during the medical examination,” NCPT noted.

The Swiss organisation also described how the pregnant woman was carried “inappropriately” on a staircase by three or four police officers, even as she complained about pains in her stomach several times.

The commission criticised that too many physical restraints took place during Switzerland’s deportations and that this should be absolutely avoided. It said migrants forcibly restrained in the presence of children “can be traumatic for a child.”

Amnesty investigation uncovers inhumane abuse

The conditions of federal asylum centres in Switzerland were also the subject of a 2021 report by Amnesty International.

The rights group launched an investigation after receiving alerts from security guards and victims of abuse from state-run centres.

Amnesty interviewed 32 people, including fourteen victims of abuse, eighteen current and former security guards, lawyers, social workers and educators who had witnessed abuse. It also examined criminal complaints, medical documents and other relevant information.

The abuse described occurred between January 2020 and April 2021 in asylum centres in Basel, Giffers, Boudry, Altstätten and Vallorbe.

Amnesty also found cases of thrashings, the use of pepper gel which harmed breathing, and the locking up of migrants in a metal container which resulted in hypothermia.

The organization also reported cases of sustained force that restricted victims’ breathing, leading to epileptic seizures or loss of consciousness.

In May 2021, Switzerland announced its intention to welcome 1,600 migrants to the country in 2022 and 2023.

The intake is based on immigration quotas the country follows. Switzerland indicated they would most welcome victims of ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East and the central Mediterranean region, as well as people fleeing persecution in their countries.

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