Eritrean Refugee Charged with Murdering German Child Was Poster Boy of Swiss Integration

Flowers and candles lay near a track at the main train station in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. An eight-year-old boy was pushed on the rails and died on Monday, July 29, 2019. (Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via AP)
Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via AP

The Eritrean refugee charged with killing a child by pushing him in front of a train was a ‘poster boy’ for successful integration in Switzerland.

German interior minister Horst Seehofer had said during a news conference that the suspect, who is accused of fatally pushing an eight-year-old boy in front of a moving train in Frankfurt on Monday, had been considered “an example of successful integration” and was “mentioned in publications” in Switzerland.

Zurich prosecutors confirmed to German news magazine Focus that Habte Araya, 40, had been in psychiatric treatment since 2019 and had not worked for a year. Prior to that, he had worked for several years at transport companies in the Swiss capital and two years ago, was portrayed as a model of integration in a publication of the Swiss Workers’ Assistance.

Araya, whose full name was revealed in British media, had gained employment through a refugee integration programme and said in a pamphlet for the Swiss Workers’ Relief Organisation that he liked “almost everything” about Switzerland.

“In the beginning, communication was difficult because of the language difference, but not anymore,” Araya continued. “Whether you are rich or poor, everyone can eat and your livelihood is secure. I also like the schools very much. Here, it is the first world.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, German Federal Police President Dieter Romann said that the “well integrated” migrant had arrived illegally in Switzerland in 2006, and was granted asylum in Switzerland in 2008.

Romann said that “since 2011, he has been holding the Swiss Settlement Permit Category C in Switzerland, which means well integrated” and was considered “exemplary from the point of view of the immigration and asylum authorities in Switzerland”.

Authorities believed that the Eritrean refugee had travelled from Basel in Switzerland to Germany a few days prior to the attack. On Monday morning, the migrant allegedly pushed the eight-year-old child and his mother onto the tracks as a high-speed train pulled into Frankfurt station. While the mother managed to get out of the way, the boy was run over and killed instantly. The suspect then allegedly tried to push a 78-year-old onto the tracks and failed, with the elderly woman falling and suffering an injury to her shoulder.

Media reports that Araya had allegedly threatened to kill a neighbour with a knife on July 25th. When the police arrived at the scene, the woman, Araya’s wife, and his three children were found locked in the suspect’s apartment. Since last week, Swiss authorities had been looking for him.

While Switzerland is not part of the EU, it adheres to the bloc’s freedom of movement of people, meaning that the refugee was able to travel between Switzerland and Germany with no immigration checks. Araya was not listed on either Germany’s or Switzerland’s crime databases.

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