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Migration


Ministers want army to help control migrants on borders


The Swiss ministers in charge of defence and customs want the army to guard the nation’s borders and help control the flow of migrants into the country, Swiss newspapers have reported. The government is expected to discuss the issue on Wednesday. 

According to the Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung papers, cabinet ministers Guy Parmelin and Ueli Maurer from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party are set to present an emergency plan to cabinet on Wednesday to deal with any large influxes of migrants this year. 

The newspapers said the ministers - in charge of the army and customs, respectively - want the army to be posted along the borders and to re-establish controls. Their plan does not include immigration quotas. 

As Macedonia and other states on the Western Balkans migration corridor have sealed their borders to stop the flow of migrants, attention has turned in Switzerland to the migration route via Italy. 

Some Swiss officials have expressed concern that from spring onwards the tide of migrants reaching Switzerland from the south may rise. The Swiss press recently reported unconfirmed emergency immigration planning with scenarios rising to 120,000 asylum requests in 2016. 

However, last week State Secretary for Migration Mario Gattiker dismissed this figure as “fantasy”. 

He told Swiss public television, RTS, that 10,000 arrivals per month in summer was possible, but his office was planning for the same total number of arrivals as last year (39,000), while preparing different emergency scenarios with the cantons. 

During the first two months of 2016, Switzerland registered 6,333 asylum requests, up from 2,989 in 2015. 

He added that Switzerland could, like other European countries, “strengthen surveillance of its borders if public order required it”. 

Close borders?

Last year, rightwing politicians repeatedly called for Switzerland to close its borders, notably to stop refugees from entering the country, but also to prevent terrorist attacks. 

In November, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga of the centre-left Social Democratic Party said the government did not consider boosting the number of border guards or deploying troops to provide logistical backup. 

In an interview in Tages-Anzeiger newspaper last December, Jürg Noth, Head of the Swiss Border Guard (SBG), also dismissed calls from politicians for systematic border controls for asylum seekers as “impossible”, noting that more than 750,000 people and 350,000 vehicles cross the 1,900 km Swiss border every day. 

But he said in the event of a massive influx, as occurred in Austria in September when 7,000 migrants crossed the border each day, Noth said that the engagement first of cantonal police forces, and then of the Swiss army, would be required to assist the approximately 2,000-strong SBG staff. 

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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