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Swiss Vote to Tighten Asylum Rules

In Switzerland, nearly 68 percent of voters have approved new, tougher regulations for asylum-seekers. Critics say the new rules will make it harder for asylum-seekers to find refuge in the country.

The Swiss Television presenter confirms the results of the referendum. The new law requires all asylum-seekers to present identity papers within 48 hours of arriving in Switzerland, or face expulsion.

It also will lengthen the period of detention for people awaiting deportation to a maximum of two years, and will cut off financial aid to people whose claims are turned down.

Critics say the new regulations could make it harder for people with a legitimate claim of asylum to gain entry into Switzerland.

Ron Redmond is spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency.

"The right to seek and enjoy asylum is a universal human right, and we are concerned that some of the provisions in this could result in some deserving cases being denied access to international protection," said Ron Redmond.

The right-wing party that pushed for the new legislation says it is needed to prevent abuse of the asylum system and to crack down on bogus claims. They say it will not discriminate against genuine refugees.

Opponents disagree, and say some of the law's provisions are in breach of the 1951 refugee convention.

UN refugee agency spokesman Redmond says the 1951 Convention specifically acknowledges and provides for refugees who may have had to flee their country, without being able to obtain valid travel or identity documents.

"We should not forget that, people trying to enter a country without documentation may have valid reasons to do so," he said. "It is often not possible for people fleeing for their lives to obtain such documents."

He urged Swiss authorities to ensure that they comply with the convention.

Redmond notes that asylum applications in Switzerland have been falling steadily, and are now at their lowest level since 1987.

Switzerland's new law is among the strictest in Europe.