A new campaign is calling on people to say no to the construction of a new detention centres for migrants in Geneva. “Clueless?” it asks, “that’s because no-one’s talking about it”.

Apparently, the Genevan authorities are planning to create 168 new places for administrative detention of refused asylum seekers and migrants to become operational by 2017 – that’s a huge increase compared to the 20 places there were in Geneva in 2013.

“Without consulting the people, local politicians decided that Geneva will specialise in detention and deportation of failed asylum seekers coming from all French speaking cantons. That means that Geneva will become the focal point of detention for person, including families, who have done nothing except ask for asylum in Switzerland. They will also use the extra detention space to detain undocumented migrants, that is persons who have not committed any crime in Switzerland, on the basis of lack of immigration papers”, a campaign poster explains. The plans are part of a reform of the Swiss asylum system, according to which the cantons are expected to specialise in certain aspects of the new asylum process.

Particularly worrying is that the project includes cells for families including children. This is despite growing international consensus that the detention of children – no matter how short —can have significant negative impacts on their health and well-being and is contrary to international standards. In 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child clearly stated that children should never be detained on the basis of their or their parents’ immigration status and called on states to “immediately and expeditiously end the detention of children”. Rather, states should adopt alternatives to detention (ATD) that fulfil the best interests of the child, that ensure rights to liberty and family life, and that allow children to remain with their family or guardians pending a resolution of their immigration status.

The petition asks people to sign to state their belief that an immense prison for persons who have done nothing but ask for asylum or who lack immigration authorisation has no place in Geneva – “that’s not my Geneva”! And firmly condemn the detention of families with children. It points out that throughout its history, Geneva has granted safe haven to refugees. It is the birth place of numerous treaties and hosts a large number of international organisation promoting respect for human rights around the world: “Geneva has always been a place where dignity has taken centre stage, not detention and deportation!”

For more information: http://mageneve.ch/english