Switzerland and Sri Lanka plan closer cooperation

The Swiss justice minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, has agreed an extended migration partnership accord with Sri Lanka, Swiss info reported.

On Monday, Sommaruga signed a memorandum of understanding in the capital Colombo with the Sri Lankan interior minister, Seneviratne Bandara Nawinne, reaffirming their intention to facilitate and extend cooperation, according to the justice ministry.

Sommaruga said Switzerland planned to increase its support to Sri Lanka to promote democratic reform, a ministry statement said.

She added that the migration partnership set conditions for increased involvement for strengthening human rights and creating better prospects for young people in Sri Lanka through vocational training projects.

Sommaruga met the president, Maithripala Sirisena, as well as government ministers and representatives of the national human rights commission and several civil society organisations, including members of the strongest political party, the Tamil National Alliance.

During her four-day trip to the southeast Asian country, she will pay a visit to labour migration programme in the country led by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperationexternal link.

The aim of the visit is to gain first-hand information on the reconciliation process following the end of the 30-year civil war in 2009 and the rule of law in the country, notably the labour migration to Gulf States and Asian countries.

In 2016, Switzerland and Sri Lanka signed a bilateral immigration treaty covering the repatriation of Sri Lankans who no longer fulfil the conditions for continued residence in Switzerland.

The non-governmental Swiss Refugee Councilexternal link and the Swiss branch of Amnesty Internationalexternal link have criticised the planned cooperation accord with Sri Lanka.

They said the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka was not sufficiently advanced and the human rights situation in the country was too problematic for closer cooperation.

Switzerland offered shelter to thousands of refugees. Currently there are about 51,000 Sri Lankans in Switzerland. Around half of them are have acquired Swiss citizenship, according to the justice ministry.


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