Guards report rise in illegal border crossings

Swiss border guards are constantly on the lookout for illegal immigrants Keystone Archive

The number of people caught trying to enter Switzerland illegally has risen for the second year in a row.

This content was published on January 20, 2004 - 17:18

Border guards stopped around 8,200 people - an increase of ten per cent on 2002 - mainly at the frontier with France.

Jürg Noth, head of the country’s border guard service, told a news conference in Bern on Tuesday that most of those trying to cross into Switzerland illegally were from Africa, the Balkans and Asia.

Around 3,000 illegal crossings were attempted at the border with France, prompting officials to demand more resources to tackle the problem.

“It’s the same every year: we are simply understaffed,” said Jacques Strahm, head of the region’s border guards.

He said he had only 558 guards at his disposal to cover cantons Geneva, Vaud, Valais and Neuchâtel – and he needed more.

Arrests

Last year more than 34,000 people were arrested at the country’s borders and handed over to police for an array of crimes ranging from non-payment of fines to murder.

In all, more than 101,000 people were turned back at the frontier, mainly for not having the right visa or travel documents.

Seizures of hard drugs were down on last year’s record hauls. Guards uncovered 138kg of cocaine, 60,200 doses of ecstasy, amphetamines and LSD, 96kg of heroin and 448kg of cannabis.

A major police crackdown in 2003 on the production and sale of cannabis in Italian-speaking Ticino resulted in a sharp drop in cross-border smuggling of the drug.

Noth said the number of people arrested at the border for drug offences had fallen by a fifth because of the police action in Ticino.

A less positive statistic showed that guards were physically attacked 16 times and had to use pepper sprays to defend themselves on a dozen occasions.

swissinfo with agencies

Border guards

4,600 people were arrested at the border for drug offences last year – down 1,200 on 2002.
More than 8,000 people tried to enter the country illegally in 2003.
Border guards say they are increasingly concerned by the threat of violence at frontier posts.

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