Tribune de Genève.
A new law to deport foreign criminals comes into force on 1 October 2016. Geneva’s judiciary fears an explosion in the number of cases.
In 2010, a referendum put forward by the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP), was accepted by 52.9% of voters. This Saturday it comes into effect. This means anyone who is not a Swiss citizen risks being deported if they commit certain crimes.
Crimes listed in the penal code that can lead to deportation include murder, grievous bodily harm, breaking and entering, fraud, rape and genital mutilation. It also includes less serious crimes such as agression or benefits fraud. The law allows foreigners to be expelled for 5 to 15 years, or even for life in cases of repeat offending.
The law allows judges some discretion, in particular to make exceptions where deportation could have serious negative consequences for the individual, especially when sentencing those who were born or grew up in Switzerland.
Earlier this year on 28 February 2016, a referendum seeking to replace the 2010 laws with something more rigid, that would have removed judicial wiggle room and made deportations automatic, was rejected by 58.2% of Swiss voters. This left the rules from the 2010 referendum intact, and it is these rules that are coming into effect on Saturday.
Lawyer and UDC national counselor Yves Nidegger is pleased to see the rules coming into force, but fears judges, especially Geneva judges, will grant too many exceptions.
Lawyer Pierre Bayenet, thinks little will change. Those convicted are well represented. Fundamentally, things won’t change. He thinks the judicial system will simply end up doing what the State Secretariat of Migration (SEM) was doing before for non Europeans.
As for Europeans, their expulsion is governed by the agreement on the free movement of people, which limits deportation to cases where serious crimes have been committed. Lawyers will still have to defend them, however their chances of success are high, said Pierre Bayenet.
Geneva expects at least 300 to 400 new cases a year. Henri Della Casa, spokesperson for the judiciary said they have asked for two more judges. In addition, every time a deportation looks likely, a public defender will need to be appointed. This could cost an extra CHF 2 million, he said. On top of this, those accused will need to be held somewhere, and Geneva’s Champ-Dollon prison is already overflowing.