The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against a Swiss decision to expel a Nigerian citizen who had two convictions for drug trafficking in Austria and Germany, saying that expulsion would violate his right to private and family life.
The man first came to Switzerland in 2001 under a false identity, having been convicted of a drug-trafficking offence in Austria. His application for asylum was rejected.
He married a Swiss national in 2003 and is the father of twin girls born the same year. His second conviction came in 2006 in Germany. He returned to Switzerland in 2008 and has been under an expulsion order since 2009.
He has meanwhile divorced his first wife and had a third child with a second Swiss national whom he wants to marry.
"The forced removal of the applicant is likely to lead to the two girls grow up separated from their father," the Court stated. It considers it in the "best interests of the two girls that they can live with both parents."
It said the Swiss decision violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
The decision was not unanimous: two of the seven judges believed that Switzerland had followed the Human Rights Convention sufficiently because the drug convictions weighed against the applicant. They said national authorities had to be able to show firmness in combatting the “scourge” of drug trafficking.
The court ordered Switzerland to pay the man €9000 for costs and expenses.
The ruling comes as Switzerland continues to debate the implementation of a popular vote in 2010 for the expulsion of criminal foreigners. The right-wing People’s Party, which launched the initiative, has now collected enough signatures to force a second vote to back up the first.