Switzerland is reporting higher numbers of smugglers believed to be ferrying migrants through the country to points north, according to the latest data and statements by the Federal Customs Office.
David Marquis, a spokesperson for the customs authorities, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper that “more smuggling is taking place compared to previous years”.
Border guards, Marquis said, are noticing increasing numbers of smuggling rings active both inside and outside Switzerland.
Between January and August, border guards arrested 271 people on suspicion of smuggling, compared to 197 over the same period a year before, according to numbers obtained by the Swiss news agency SDA. Most of those arrested came from Switzerland, followed by Italy, Germany, Kosovo and Syria. Among the smugglers, 231 used road networks while 36 brought migrants over the border via the train and four used airline routes.
Individual cantons such as Ticino, Valais and St Gallen also reported higher numbers of smuggling cases to the SonntagsBlick.
Overall, the number of those seeking asylum in Switzerland has dropped by more than a third in the first half of 2017 after authorities closed the Balkan land route used by thousands to flee conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
However, also this year, Germany has deported 70% more asylum seekers to Switzerland than in 2016 under the terms of the Dublin agreement. That agreement stipulates that countries can deport rejected asylum seekers, but must send them back to the European country from which they originally crossed the border.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv