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Switzerland to inspect Facebook and Twitter profiles of asylum seekers

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Asylum seekers in Switzerland could soon have their social media profiles reviewed as part of their application processes, according to local media reports.

The newspaper ‘NZZ am Sonntag’ reported that Swiss authorities will inspect data from an applicant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to investigate claims of asylum. A spokesperson for the State Secretariat for Migration told the newspaper that the information published on these sites can cultivate a better understanding of a person’s circumstances.

“From the information that asylum seekers publish on social networks, it may be possible to draw conclusions that may be of importance for the asylum procedure such as references to family relationships,” the spokesperson said in a statement cited by SwissInfo.

A working group has now been established to set down rules around how and under what conditions information on social media can be accessed.

Advocates for the strategy cite the case of a Nigerian man who applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2016 amid claims that he had been persecuted in his own country. After finding pictures the man’s wife had posted online, investigators learned that he had not come from Nigeria but from Spain, where he had been living under a different name. A deportation order was appealed by the man’s lawyers on the grounds that the man’s privacy had been violated. The appeal was rejected by a federal court.

According to the non-profit group Swiss Refugee Council, Switzerland received more than 18,000 applications for asylum last year, including a record number from people living in other European countries. The majority of applications from outside Europe were from people from Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan.