Asylum Seekers in Switzerland and DNA testing


Switzerland is currently determining whether to introduce the mandatory DNA testing of asylum seekers requesting refuge under the family reunification program. To date, methods of assessing the veracity of claims to family reunification have been considered highly imperfect and has allowed some asylum seekers to enter the country without really being related. The introduction of DNA testing raises numerous questions, not least of which is the cost involved compared to what benefits will be accrued from it. DNA testing is not only costly in terms of the technology involved but also the specialized personnel that will be called on to do it. DNA testing, of course also introduces fundamental ethical concerns and questions of privacy and confidentiality. While some would argue that asylum seekers should be prepared to forfeit much of this, there are those who would argue that they must be assured of the privacy and confidentiality that DNA testing might undermine.

Underlying all of this, however, is the growing vocal concern in Switzerland about the number of people seeking asylum. Asylum requests in Switzerland fell by over a third during the first six months of this year in comparison to the figures for the same period in 2012. Today, although the number of asylum seekers is reported to have dropped by 30.6%, 48,000 people are still in the process of seeking asylum in Switzerland, of which over 28,000 arrived in 2012.

Passport control

This concern is not limited to Switzerland. Many other European countries are also questioning the limits to asylum seeking. The reality is that the EU (of which Switzerland is not a Member) accommodates approximately 25% of its’ 407,000 applicants per year. The 102,000 asylum seekers admitted on a yearly basis, compared to the number of places allocated by the USA, is pitifully small.

What is it about asylum seekers that cause so much concern? Is it that they come from countries that are not considered high priority? Is it that they risk presenting problems of psychological trauma that are difficult to treat? Is it that their potential contribution to receiving countries in terms of education and skills is not clear? Or is it that Europe is simply becoming more xenophobic and protective of its resources?

What is clear is that the growing resistance to asylum seekers and refugees is coming just at a time when fertility rates in Europe have plummeted and when most countries will have difficulty replenishing their populations through natural growth and are already having difficulty maintaining their social security and pension systems. It could be that Switzerland and the rest of Europe are in danger of cutting out one of the main sources of new human resources they will have access to while in the meantime causing unnecessary additional trauma to people who have been forced to move and leave most of their possessions and history behind.

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