Asylum camp to be built near Swiss-Italian border

An improvised migrant camp near Como train station on August 17 Keystone

A migrant camp will be built in Como near the Swiss-Italian border to accommodate people who have tried to cross into Switzerland but have been sent back to Italy.

This content was published on August 18, 2016 - 11:35

Italian authorities made the announcement on Wednesday and said the camp would house 300 people.

Swiss guards on the Italian border turned away 4,149 people last month who had either already applied for asylum in other countries or did not have papers with them. Under the so-called Dublin accord, member countries – including Switzerland – may send asylum seekers back to the country where they first registered for asylum.

So far this year, Swiss authorities have picked up 22,181 people who entered Switzerland illegally, a third of those in July alone. Swiss border guards admit they are having a tough time controlling the situation, particularly at the border with Italy.

Last month Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said many illegal immigrants entering Switzerland from the south had no intention of staying in Switzerland but were heading towards Germany.

The NGO Swiss Refugee Aid arrived in Como on Wednesday, looking into allegations that Swiss border patrols are sending people back to Italy who claim they want to request asylum in Switzerland.

The border guards have denied this. In an interviewExternal link with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Tuesday, Norman Gobbi, head of justice and police in canton Ticino, said border guards passed everyone who clearly wanted to apply for asylum in Switzerland on to the State Secretariat for Migration.

“Many asylum seekers plan to withdraw their request once they are in [Swiss] reception centres. These people are repatriated by the border guards to Italy,” he said.

The government has so far rejected the idea of significantly boosting the number of border guards or employing the army to help out. But Switzerland has been seeking to improve border control cooperation with neighbouring countries, including Germany and Italy.

Heading north

German officials meanwhile have complained that the border with Switzerland has more holes than a “Swiss cheese” as asylum seekers head north across the Alps, despite the best efforts of Swiss border guards to intercept them.

Some 2,300 people without papers entered Germany across the Swiss border between January and June, according to official German statistics quoted by the Tages-Anzeiger. But German states bordering Switzerland believe that the true figure is much higher.

Frank Hämmerle, president of the German border city of Konstanz, estimates that ten to 20 illegal immigrants come over from northeastern Switzerland every day – up to 600 a month at just one crossing point.

Helmut Mutter, police spokesman for the town of Weil am Rhein, compared the border at Basel to the holes in Swiss cheese because the situation was so desperate.

Asylum seekers, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, are apparently paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to transit illegally through Switzerland, Hämmerle told the Tages-Anzeiger.

German authorities told the newspaper that they had submitted 900 requests to send people back to Switzerland in the first seven months of the year. The Swiss have rubber-stamped 200 requests, according to the source. That information has not been confirmed by the Swiss authorities. 

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