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Calmy-Rey calls for more embassy staff

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is calling for more embassy staff Keystone

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for more Swiss staff at Switzerland's embassies to prevent, in particular, abuse in the issuing of visas.

This content was published on May 12, 2006 - 14:03

She made the move after about 100 cases of visa fraud were discovered at the Swiss embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

"It is intolerable that staff of Swiss representations are engaged in [human] trafficking at the expense of other people," she commented on Friday at a news conference in the capital, Bern.

Calmy-Rey said an "acute shortage" of staff meant that minimum standards of security in issuing visas were not being kept.

She called for about 100 local staff employed in recent years as part of cost-cutting measures to be replaced by Swiss.

Under pressure

Calmy-Rey said that local staff were more easily put under pressure by criminal organisations than their Swiss counterparts.

She also wants a further 50 personnel to strengthen the Swiss embassy network in migration issues.

The measures would increase the staff budget at the foreign ministry by SFr6 million ($4.98 million) a year.

Calmy-Rey, who met her counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri last Saturday in Islamabad for talks on the issue, said that an administrative inquiry into the visa fraud would be completed next week.

Probe

Two Swiss police officers, who are specialists in the field of human trafficking, travelled to Islamabad last Sunday as part of the visa probe.

They have been holding talks with representatives of the Pakistani interior ministry and of the country's Federal Investigation Agency, as well as police attachés of a number of countries including Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

"Based on their talks they want to build a picture of the background, surroundings and risk assessment involved in human trafficking in Pakistan, with a particular attention on how such [criminal] organisations work, their composition and the effects [these have] on [issuing] visas," Guido Balmer, a spokesman at the Swiss Federal Police Office, told swissinfo.

"The two specialists are expected to stay for a week in Pakistan," he added.

Calmy-Rey said last Saturday that the visa section of the Swiss embassy in Islamabad would remain closed for the foreseeable future.

"We have little doubt that we have been targeted by criminal networks engaged in human trafficking," she said.

Echoing comments by the foreign ministry, she said the networks were allegedly linked to local mafia groups.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The 141 Swiss missions abroad issue about 500,000 visas a year. 40,000 applications are rejected.
The number of visas issued should to drop to about 400,000 once Europe's Schengen accord, doing away with border controls, comes into effect in Switzerland - at the earliest in 2008.
Switzerland is currently investigating cases of visa fraud in Oman, Peru, Russia, Nigeria, Serbia, Eritrea and Pakistan.

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In brief

February: Reports from Pakistan say a local employee of the Swiss embassy in Islamabad demanded sex from women seeking Swiss visa.

March: Swiss foreign ministry sends inspector to the embassy.

April: Pakistani officials say they are investigating several Swiss employees for visa fraud and suspected human trafficking. One local employee has been detained. Swiss authorities open administrative investigation.

May: Two police officers are sent to Pakistan to help with the investigations and the visa section is temporarily closed.

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