This article originally appeared in Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Thirteen Kurdish asylum seekers from three families Iraq and Turkey are unable to enter Switzerland as asylum seekers because they traveled through “safe countries” prior to arriving.
“The High Migration Office here does not take into consideration who we are and what we say. Our demands are not taken into consideration. Using the IDs [passports] we used for coming to Switzerland, they want to send us back to Africa. This will put our lives and the lives of our children at risk,” said Nasrettin Kiyat, a native of Van, Turkey.
Kiyat, his wife and daughter traveled through South Africa before arriving at Kloten Airport in Zurich, Switzerland.
“This place is not appropriate for families to live in for a long time. There are no health facilities for kids. Our children have not been out for about a month and half. They feel depressed due to constantly staying in,” said Kiyat.
They have been at the airport for more than 40 days.
Two other Kurdish families are with them, including Osman Erdal a politician from Saliurfa, Turkey, and Mustafa Mamay, a journalist from Kars, Turkey.
Both are wanted by Turkish authorities.
Kiyat described the psychological condition one of the children as “very dangerous.”
Because they transited through “safe countries” Swiss authorities are likely to deny their asylum requests.
“There are two Kurds who have come through Brazil and have been denied asylum. There is also a family of four from Rojava who have come through Moldova but they have not received an asylum denial yet,” said Kiyat.
Switzerland is notoriously difficult to enter and has strict immigration policy. At least 28 people have been detained recently at the airport. It is unclear how they boarded planes without Swiss visas or passports.
Kurds from Iraq and Turkey have a more difficult asylum claim than those from Syria, as the latter is considered to be an active conflict zone. Ethnicity and religion can also play a factor if the group is unable to return safely to their place of origin.
Mutlu Civiroglu, an analyst on Syrian and Kurdish affairs, tweeted that two Kurdish refugee families with 13-year-old children were stuck at the airport.
“They want to remain in Switzerland, but officials are trying to send them back to South Africa because it’s where they came from,” he wrote.
This article was originally published in Rudaw.