Medical Screening of Asylum Seekers in Switzerland

Author(s) : Louis Loutan

Source :


Fear of plague is deeply rooted in popular memory. Foreigners have always been viewed as potential importers of diseases such as cholera, plague, malaria, leprosy and more recently Lassa fever or AIDS. Global strategies designed to create barriers to control the introduction of such communicable diseases as quarantine and “cordons sanitaires” have already been established. Despite much effort and money, they have not stopped the spread of epidemics. Furthermore, regulations may give
a false sense of protection to local populations and reinforce the fallacy that new diseases are due mainly to foreigners, thus encouraging discriniinatory behaviour. Countries of traditional immigration have developed strict regulations and standard
medical examinations to detect communicable diseases of public health significance
(IOM, 1991). Since the mid-l980s, European countries have faced an increasing influx of refugees and asylum seekers. The increase in the number of asylum seekers from 68,000 to more than 400,000 (Appleyard, 1991) has led receiving countries to establish medical screening programmes. Switzerland is no exception.