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Politicians disagree over border migrant measures

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Swiss politicians are in disagreement over what should be done at the border with Italy which is under pressure from increased numbers of migrants. It has also emerged that Germany has stepped up security at its southern border with Switzerland.

Several hundred migrants have been sleeping near the train station in Como, Italy, since July after a Swiss clampdown on crossings. Guards on the Italian border turned away 4,149 people last month, a record number, it was reported earlier this month.

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, whose department is in charge of the border guards, praised the guards’ work during a meeting of his conservative right Swiss People’s Party at the weekend.

He said the situation in Ticino had stabilised, citing better cooperation with Italy: more than 1,000 people were sent away from the border a day by the Italian authorities.

Germany is also strengthening security at its southern border with Switzerland, the minister added, in comments cited in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper: around 90 extra German border guards and 40 police officers have been sent to these areas.

This is because Germany is concerned that Switzerland could become a transit country for refugees. According to the German Federal Police, 3,385 people have come into Germany illegally from Switzerland since the beginning of the year – almost 40% more than last year (figures for the end of July 2016).

The closure of the Balkan route means that Switzerland is becoming an alternative for reaching Germany and northern Europe, experts say.

Germany's Interior Ministry confirmed to Reuters that border staffing had been reinforced.

Ticino issue

Some members of Maurer’s party want the southern border in Ticino to be closed. But for the head of the centre-right Radical Party, Petra Gössi, this goes too far, as she said in an interview with the Schweiz am Sonntag. But she does not rule out using the army at the border at Chiasso, but because the situation could “escalate quickly if you put soldiers and rifles at the borders” the army should be used to support the border guards.

The leftwing Green Party, also meeting at the weekend, has criticised Maurer’s policy “of pointedly turning back” refugees in Ticino and called on the government for a resolution to respect asylum law and take in the long-promised contingent of refugees from Syria.

For his part, Christian Levrat, the president of the leftwing Social Democratic party, proposed immediate measures to ease the situation in Ticino in an interview with the SonntagsZeitung. This could include an ombudsman to look into both complaints from migrants being turned back at the border and the authorities’ policies, he said.

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