The cabinet has decided not to increase the number of Swiss border guards, going back on a plan it originally announced two years ago, Swiss public television SRF has reported. Politicians and the border guard union have criticised the move.
The cabinet had approved boosting the numbers of border guards as part of a multi-year year plan in the summer of 2015, with the goal of relieving some of the pressure of extra duties and demands placed on officers.
Some new posts were approved in 2016 – due to terror attacks in Europe and a wave of arriving migrants – but an additional 44 posts will not be filled, according to a Swiss Federal Office of Personnel document presented to parliamentarians, seen by SRFexternal link. The text detailed which requests have not been granted by the cabinet – Switzerland’s executive branch – due to budgetary considerations.
The document said that the plan for additional personnel “cannot be implemented further” and noted potential negative impacts of such a move.
“This is to the detriment of the fight against cross-border crime and the organised smuggling of meat and other foodstuffs,” it said.
The union of border guards and customs officials, Garantoexternal link, said that the decision simply deferred the problem to another day.
Union head Roland Liebi pointed out that even though the situation at Switzerland’s southern border with Italy had become less critical in the last months, one couldn’t simply reinforce staff numbers when the number of migrants starts to increase again.
“That is too late. Staff has to be recruited and then trained and that’s not an overnight process,” he told SRF.
The head of the House of Representative’s Security Policy Committeeexternal link, Corina Eichenberger, said she could not understand the cabinet’s decision.
“I am amazed by this move,” she said. “We had only just managed in parliament to get the number of border guards increased and for the people to be trained properly,” she said.
Eichenberger said that her committee might well ask for the higher number of border guards to be approved during parliamentary discussion on the budget during the winter session.
The number of Swiss border guard posts currently stands at 2,087. Although migrant traffic has eased in recent months near Switzerland’s southern border, the Swiss Border Guard reported in January that 48,838 people attempted to enter the country illegally in 2016, with over two thirds of illegal entries occurring in canton Ticino.
SRF and swissinfo.ch/ilj