In an interview on Saturday, Jürg Noth, Head of the Swiss Border Guard (SBG), gave the Tages Anzeiger newspaper his perspective on what has been a tumultuous year for immigration issues, both in Switzerland and the rest of Europe.
Noth 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.
“A routine check at the border crossings would cause huge traffic jams. Many commuters could not come to work on time,” Noth told the German-language newspaper.
He said that currently, about 800-950 asylum seekers are arriving in Switzerland each week, and that the SBG began preparing for the influx in the spring of this year.
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.
Noth also described how, in the wake of the Paris attacks, the SBG has had to modify its modus operandi.
“We have reduced our customs services, without neglecting the fight against serious smuggling cases. We focus on the fight against cross-border crime and on our responsibilities in the field of migration,” he said.
Noth said that SBG employees – of which there is currently a deficit due to budget constraints – are working overtime in light of the “very stressful” migration situation.
In reference to the Paris attacks, Noth said that additional measures, including increased controls at the French border, were implemented the same night. He emphasised that the SBG is making every effort to tighten security as much as possible, although complete safety can never be guaranteed.
‘A clear win’
Finally, Noth expressed confidence in the Schengen system of open borders in Europe, calling it “a clear win” and saying that he sees “no other alternative”, noting that the priority now is bringing the external border under control.
The interview comes a day after the Swiss cabinet announced plans to limit immigration from the European Union with a safeguard clause as part of its efforts to implement an initiative approved by voters in February 2014.