The European Court of Human Rights has found Switzerland in the wrong in the case of two rejected Ethiopian asylum seekers.
For years, the two women were not allowed to live with their husbands. On Thursday, the court announced that both women would be awarded €5,000 (SFr6,800) in compensation.
Both the women and their husbands – all Ethiopian – came to Switzerland independently and sought asylum between 1994 and 1998. While awaiting the decision, the women were sent to cantons St Gallen and Bern, the men to canton Vaud.
After their asylum applications were turned down, the Ethiopian authorities blocked them from returning home. During their continued stay in Switzerland, the women met and married their countrymen in Lausanne in 2002 and 2003.
However, the Federal Migration Office refused to re-assign the women to canton Vaud so that they could live with their new husbands. The authorities said that a change of canton was against policy for rejected asylum candidates.
The woman living in St Gallen decided to move to Lausanne anyway, but was eventually arrested and sent back in handcuffs in 2003. The canton also withdrew her welfare payments.
Both women were finally permitted to join their husbands in canton Vaud in 2008.
In response to their complaints, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by preventing the spouses from living together.
Source : swissinfo.ch and agencies