The Swiss government has authorised a number of entry bans on radicalised non-Swiss citizens in order to limit extremist groups who promote their ideas on Swiss streets.
“Because of a threat to domestic security, since the beginning of December we have imposed 14 entry bans on jihad-motivated travellers and so-called hate preachers at the request of the intelligence services,” said Nicoletta della Valle, director of the Federal Office of Police.
The past six months had therefore seen more entry bans than the previous 11 months, Della Valle told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
She explained that the problem of jihadist travellers was so challenging for the authorities because a line had to be drawn between freedom of expression and genuine risk.
In Della Valle’s opinion, social networks contribute to rapid radicalisation. “A 15-year-old at home sitting in front of his computer can undergo a change without anyone noticing at first,” she said.
The question of means of intervention goes far beyond police work, she added. “Switzerland isn’t a country that simply blocks Facebook and Twitter.”
Instead the police cooperate with international internet service providers. “When it concerns calls to violence and propaganda, they should become active,” she said.
In 2014, an inter-departmental task force was set up, led by the Federal Office of Police, aimed at preventing jihadists travelling from Switzerland to conflict regions and terrorist attacks being committed in Switzerland.
According to the office, between 2001 and September 2014, 55 people left Switzerland to fight in jihadist conflicts, 35 of whom had left since May 2013. Of the total, 31 went to Iraq or Syria, while 24 went to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
In April 2005, a Swiss man was arrested at Zurich airport, where he was trying to travel to Istanbul and then, it is thought, Syria or Iraq. This was the first time a suspected jihadist had been prevented from travelling abroad from Switzerland.
swissinfo.ch and agencies