Swiss border guards have reported a “quantum leap” in the quantity of drugs seized at the border during the first six months of the year.
Officials said they impounded a record 147kg of cocaine – three times more than during the same period last year.
Seizures of heroin also nearly doubled during the period from January to June to reach 64kg.
The authorities cited improved cooperation with police and border guards abroad as the main reason for the increase in the amount of drugs seized.
But they also blame a significant rise in the use of cocaine across Europe.
“Cocaine seems to be in fashion now. There’s been a real wave of cocaine use across Europe, and that’s the main reason why there have been so many more drugs confiscated,” said an official with the Swiss border guards, Rodolfo Contin.
Train and plane
Contin added that couriers were increasingly smuggling drugs by train rather than by air, which would partly explain the increase in seizures at the border.
But he also praised the close cooperation between cantonal police forces as well as the authorities in neighbouring countries.
“The efficiency of the border guards has increased mainly because of better cooperation with our colleagues abroad and with other Swiss authorities,” he said.
“This has allowed us to get a better idea of what’s going on, and to intervene successfully.”
During the first six months of the year, Swiss border guards referred nearly 19,000 people to cantonal police for investigation, ten per cent more than in 2003.
But the statistics for the first half of the year also indicate a five per cent decline in the number of people caught trying to enter the country illegally.
Around 3,800 people were stopped at the border in the first half of 2004, 1,600 of whom were trying to enter at the frontier in Geneva.
Risk of attack
Contin said border guards were increasingly running the risk of attack, especially in the regions of Basel and Geneva, where eight aggressive incidents were reported in the past six months.
“The murder of the wife of a guard at the border in Ticino is an extreme case of the violence our units have been confronted with,” he said.
Though cases of serious violence are rare, officials said the work of border guards was becoming increasingly difficult.
“More and more often, offenders try to break through road blocks, people insult border guards and more scuffles occur,” said Contin.
He added that guards had used pepper spray for self-defence purposes on five occasions and twice fired warning shots into the air.
swissinfo with agencies
Border guards seized 147kg of cocaine between January and June of this year, three times more than in the same period last year.
They seized 64kg of heroin, nearly double the amount impounded in the first six months of 2003.
Swiss border guards also referred nearly 19,000 people to cantonal police for investigation, ten per cent more than in 2003.
Swiss border guards have seized as much cocaine in the past six months as they netted during the whole of last year.
Officials blame a rising tide of cocaine use across Europe.
They also credit international cooperation among border authorities for catching more offenders.