The army could be quickly called in to support the civil services in the case of an emergency asylum situation in Switzerland, the government has decided.
The cabinet took the decision on Wednesday, making it clear that there was no current need for such measures, but it wanted to ensure that the army could be put into action at their request at short notice. The decision was based on the emergency plan put together by the state, cantons, cities and communes last week.
Army intervention would be required, according to the plan, if 30,000 asylum seekers came to Switzerland within the space of just a few days. If 10,000 asylum seekers arrived within 30 days, or 10,000 each month for three consecutive calendar months, an army mission would be a possibility if other factors also came into play, such as a terror threat.
The cabinet said in a statement that such a situation had never occurred, even during the Kosovo crisis of the 1990s. In March this year, nearly 2,000 asylum seekers were registered.
Border protection mandate
The new measures will be overseen by a military assistance service working with the border guards. However, the government is responsible for calling up the additional troops and distributing them among cantons. Parliament must also green-light the operation if more than 2,000 members of the military are called up or if their deployment lasts more than three weeks.
The deployed troops may only be assigned a range of specific, pre-approved tasks and recruits may not be used. Their activities will be led by military superiors and could include patrolling the border, protecting border guard officials and police as well as "other tasks of a similar nature".
Generally, individual civil authorities would also guide how the extra troops could be used and whether they should be given weapons.
Migration and health authorities could also be called upon to support the special troops in areas like logistics, sanitation or transport.
In addition to providing the reserve troops, the government has called on the army to support it in having 6,000 extra beds ready for asylum seekers at all times, and 9,000 if 30,000 people cross the border in a short period of time. Currently, the government has 4,600 available spaces for asylum seekers.
swissinfo.ch and agencies