With the increasing numbers of immigrants seeking to obtain political asylum, the receiving conditions and the deportability of refused asylum seekers have emerged as major issues. Concern with these questions has been addressed through renewed asylum policies involving expeditious processing of applications, tight restrictions upon the right to work, removal of support or detention for failed asylum seekers. These asylum policies are intended to reduce alleged “pull factors” through the use of the threat of destitution as a deterrent against asylum seeking (Da Lomba, 2006). They also aim at reducing the number of asylum seekers that remain in the territory despite having been rejected as refugees. In this regard, the deterioration of the conditions of reception is seen across the EU as one cornerstone of a “voluntary departure” policy (Fox O’Mahony and Sweeney, 2010). In this article, we examine the case of Switzerland, where the suppression of social assistance for rejected asylum seekers was intended to support such a policy. We report data from a field study showing how, in this country, this policy induces institutional practices that prevent, rather than promote, failed asylum seekers to leave the territory. We also discuss some implications of the Swiss system in the realm of education, suggesting that the institutional constraints imposed by the asylum policy jeopardize the implementation of the recognized unconditional right of children to education.
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