• Press Release

Switzerland: Judgment day for pensioner convicted for showing compassion to frost-bitten asylum-seeker

Ahead of tomorrow’s appeal against the conviction of Anni Lanz, a 73-year-old woman convicted and fined with 800 Swiss francs ($820 US) for giving a rough-sleeping frost-bitten Afghan asylum seeker a lift over the Italian border into Switzerland, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Migration, Maria Serrano, said:

“Anni Lanz has done nothing wrong and committed no crime. By driving across the border to help a young and traumatized man who had been forced to sleep rough in sub-zero temperatures, she showed compassion, not criminality.

Efforts by individuals and NGOs to help people seeking safety should be lauded and defended, not criminalised
Maria Serrano, Amnesty International

“The conviction against Anni should be overturned and legislation in Switzerland amended so it no longer punishes good Samaritans for acts of solidarity.

“Dragging her before the court on absurd charges makes a mockery of justice. Efforts by individuals and NGOs to help people seeking safety should be lauded and defended, not criminalised.”

Background

Anni Lanz was charged with facilitating irregular entry into Switzerland, after she gave a lift to an Afghan asylum seeker she found sleeping outside a train station in freezing conditions in Italy, near the Swiss border. She had originally met the man in a removal centre in Basel.

He was suffering from serious psychological problems following the reported death of his wife and child and was desperate to stay with his sister in Switzerland. Despite medical reports provided to Swiss authorities recommending that he be allowed to stay with his sister, Swiss authorities had returned him to Italy.

After hearing that he did not have a place in the reception centre in Italy and was sleeping in the streets in temperatures of minus 10 degrees, Anni went to pick him up. 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 don’t, Amnesty considers that the criminal justice should never be used to punish acts of solidarity. Anni Lanz has worked on refugee rights since 1985 and is well-known in Switzerland.