Switzerland: Former local MP must not be punished for aiding asylum-seekers

Ahead of tomorrow’s appeal against the conviction of former local MP, Lisa Bosia Mirra, fined almost 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000 US) for helping 24 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers to cross the Italian border into Switzerland, Amnesty International Researcher, Rym Khadhraoui said:

“Lisa Bosia Mirra’s actions were examples of humanity rather than criminality. By helping asylum seekers, who were mostly unaccompanied minors, to access protection in Switzerland, she committed no crime but instead showed compassion to desperate people – some of who had suffered torture.

Lisa Bosia Mirra’s actions were examples of humanity rather than criminality
Rym Khadhraoui, Amnesty International

“This is just the latest in a series of cases of misuse of anti-smuggling legislation to target Good Samaritans in Switzerland and across Europe. Instead of dragging people before the courts on absurd charges, authorities should support them in their efforts to ensure that people seeking safety are given the protections they need.

This is just the latest in a series of cases of misuse of anti-smuggling legislation to target Good Samaritans in Switzerland and across Europe
Rym Khadhraoui, Amnesty International

“The conviction against Lisa should be overturned and legislation designed to punish people for acts of solidarity should be quashed.”

Background

In the summer of 2016, Swiss authorities increased border controls along the Southern border. Border officials reportedly engaged in unlawful practices, turning people seeking protection at the border back to Italy, including children. Many of those returned from Chiasso ended up camping out in the Italian city of Como.

Lisa Bosia Mirra is a 46-year-old social worker. She sat in the local parliament of Ticino from 2015 to 2019. She was arrested on 1 September, 2016, in San Pietro di Stabio (Ticino), while serving as a scout for a van carrying four Eritreans, including three minors.

Instead of dragging people before the courts on absurd charges, authorities should support them in their efforts to ensure that people seeking safety are given the protections they need
Rym Khadraoui, Amnesty International

She was charged in April 2017 for helping 24 Eritreans and Syrians, mostly unaccompanied minors, to enter Switzerland illegally and sentenced (in September 2017) to a financial penalty of 8800 francs and a fine of 1000 francs for "repeated complicity to enter, exit and stay illegally in Switzerland”.

Article 116 of the Federal Aliens Law in Switzerland criminalizes the facilitation of irregular entry, stay and circulation. Although the law foresees different penalties for those who facilitate for profit and those who do not, Amnesty considers that the criminal justice should never be used to punish acts of solidarity.