Switzerland – Supreme Administrative Court, 10. July 2018, E-5022/2017

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
Court Name:
Federal Administrative Court
Relevant Legislative Provisions:
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention > Art 1A
International Law > UN Convention against Torture
International Law > UN Convention against Torture > Art. 3
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention > Art 33
Council of Europe Instruments > EN - Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Council of Europe Instruments
Council of Europe Instruments > EN - Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms > Article 3
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Switzerland - Art. 31
37 VGG (Insurance Contract Act)
Switzerland - Art. 5
49 VwVG Administrative Procedure Act)
Switzerland - Art. 83 letter d no. 1 BGG (Swiss Federal Supreme Court Act)
Switzerland - Art. 3
106 AsylG (Asylum law)
Switzerland - Art. 83 AuG (Aliens Act)
Switzerland - Art. 1A
33 GRC (Geneva Refugee Convention)
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The judgment deals with the admissibility of the execution of an expulsion order of an Eritrean who illegally left the country. Despite the assumption that the entry into the national service in the country of origin constitutes forced labour within the meaning of Art. 4 para. 2 ECHR, enforcement is permissible since there was no flagrant violation of Art. 4 para. 2 ECHR.


The complainant was expelled from school in sixth grade in 2013 and was afraid of military entry even though he had not yet received a marching order or had contact with military authorities. This fear led him to leave Eritrea on foot for Ethiopia and ultimately Europe.

By order of 7 August 2017, the State Secretariat for Migration determined that refugee status had not been fulfilled, rejected the asylum application, ordered expulsion from Switzerland and its execution.

The complainant challenged this order on 5 September 2017 and requested the annulment of the expulsion order and the order to execute it, the finding of inadmissibility or at least unreasonableness of the execution of the expulsion order and the order for provisional admission.

The subject-matter of the judgment is exclusively the admissibility of the order to execute the expulsion. The denial of refugee status and the rejection of the asylum application are not subject of this judgement.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The situation in Eritrea must be analysed in order to assess whether the execution of the expulsion order is inadmissible or unreasonable. The Federal Administrative Court has already decided that the illegal departure from Eritrea in itself no longer leads to refugee status. Asylum-relevant would be a considerable risk of punishment on return. This could only be assumed if other factors were added to the illegal departure. In addition, the possibility of conscription by the Eritrean national service after return was irrelevant under asylum law. This must be distinguished from the question of the admissibility of the execution of the removal order. On this question, an earlier ruling of the Federal Administrative Court stated that, in view of the documented improvement in the provision of basic services in Eritrea, a return was no longer reasonable only in favourable individual circumstances. In the case of special circumstances, however, a threat to livelihood could be assumed. The question of reasonableness has to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The present judgment deals with the question if the execution of the expulsion can be regarded as permissible and reasonable if the person concerned fears to become enlisted to the national service. It also examines the question of whether detention in Eritrea for illegal departure would constitute a violation of Art. 3 ECHR.

The source situation poses particular difficulties with regard to the situation in Eritrea, since hardly any foreign journalists come to the country, foreign human rights organisations are not allowed into the country, scientific works are rare and almost no information is provided by the official authorities. The primary sources are therefore diplomatic sources, people close to the government and refugees. Their objectivity must often be viewed critically.

The Eritrean National Service is divided into civilian and military branches. Both are under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. The aim of the National Service is not only defence, but also economic development and national solidarity. To this end, all national service personnel initially undergo a 6-month basic training. The military part is integrated into the army. The civilian national service has attained a central economic importance as a means of labour recruitment and includes work in administration, schools, hospitals and agriculture. National service personnel are subordinate to civilian employers, but are employed by the Ministry of Defence and can be transferred to military service at any time. In principle, all Eritreans are subject to national service. Exemptions are only temporary and can be lifted at any time. There is no exemption from service on grounds of conscience. Certain ethnic groups are drafted less often than others. Recruitment takes place in the school system. In  12th grade  pupils are taken to a national military training centre, where they complete six months of military training. Nationwide raids are carried out to locate those suitable for national service.

The basic formation is characterized by difficult living conditions and a hard everyday life. Particularly harsh conditions prevail in exclusively military training camps, in which mainly people are trained who have been apprehended during their illegal departure. Family contacts take place only sporadically, pocket money is very scarce and recruits are exposed to the arbitrariness and draconian punishments of their superiors. Maltreatment and sexual assault are documented, but it is not clear whether they occur systematically. Particularly in military service, extreme climatic conditions, a lack of water reserves and only very basic medical care, the hardly limited decision-making power of superiors and a lack of functioning military justice are to be noted. The official duty is unlimited and for an indefinite period of time. This is justified by the Eritrean state with the no-war-no-peace situation towards Ethiopia.

The execution of the expulsion could violate the non-refoulement requirement under Art. 3 ECHR. This is the case if there are valid reasons to believe that the person concerned would be exposed to a serious risk of inhuman or degrading treatment or torture in the country of destination. Art. 3 ECHR has a limited extraterritorial applicability according to ECtHR case-law. Whether this also applies to Art. 4 ECHR has not yet been decided by the ECtHR, but there is much to suggest that this is the case in the case of flagrant violations. Without question this stands for the prohibition of slavery and servitude of Art. 4 para. 1 ECHR. With regard to the prohibition of forced labour in para. 2, the serious risk of a flagrant violation is probably necessary. For such a serious risk the bare possibility is not sufficient – high probability is necessary. The Court denies the qualification of the national service as slavery for lack of presumption of ownership rights over the service providers. For the assumption of servitude the necessary permanence of the condition is lacking.

However, the Court affirms the existence of forced labour in view of the rigorous punishment of refusals of service and the resulting element of coercion. One of the exceptional circumstances of Art. 4 para. 3 ECHR did not apply. The national service is neither strictly designed for military services nor is a refusal of service on grounds of conscience provided for, so that it is not a service of a military nature within the meaning of Art. 4 para. 3 letter b ECHR. Also the reference to the state of emergency Art. 4 para. 3 letter c ECHR does not apply, since a state of emergency must be subject to narrow time limits, but the no-war-no-peace situation with Ethiopia has already existed for years. Nor does the national service serve the common good, since it is misused as a means of finding labour and is designed for an arbitrary indefinite period.

However, the existence of forced labour was not sufficient for the inadmissibility of the execution of the expulsion, but a flagrant infringement was necessary. This would be the case with a systematic occurrence of ill-treatment and sexual assault within the national service. However, there were no sufficient indications for this. The hard living conditions alone were not suitable to justify a particularly serious injury. Particularly with regard to the income situation in the entire region and the context of the socialist Eritrean economic system and the state doctrine of self-reliance, the wage relationships did not deprive Art. 4 para. 2 ECHR of its essential content.

For a violation of Art. 3 ECHR there is no finding that the mistreatment is systematic.

The complainant also invokes the threat of imprisonment on his return to Eritrea because of his illegal departure and, accordingly, inhuman treatment. In view of this, the Court recalls that many people who left illegally have already been able to return to Eritrea without any problems in the past. It was therefore not to be assumed with high probability that someone would be threatened with persecution under refugee law solely because of the illegal departure.

It may be considered that deportation under Art. 83 para. 4 AuG is unreasonable. The Court counters this by stating that the national service personnel does not find themselves in an existential emergency solely because of the general conditions in the national service. Maltreatments are not systematic and sufficiently widespread.

The Court points out that the enforcement of deportation is not impossible, since forced return to Eritrea is not possible, but there is the possibility of voluntary return.


Application was denied.


This summary was written by Dipl.-Jur. Friederike Klimek. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cologne.

Other sources cited: 

Domestic Case Law Cited

Switzerland – Federal Administrative Court, 30 January 2017, D-7898/2015

Switzerland – Federal Administrative Court, 17 August 2017, D-2311/2016


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