Swiss stop short of boosting border controls

Justice Minister Sommaruga (second on the left) on her way to the news conference Keystone

The government says there are currently not sufficient reasons to introduce systematic checks at its borders to prevent attacks by Islamist extremists in Switzerland, prompting harsh criticism from the political right.

This content was published on November 18, 2015 - 17:32
Urs Geiser,

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the authorities had no information linking the assailants in Paris last Friday with Switzerland.

“The security situation in Europe is tense, but there is no immediate threat for Switzerland,” she told a news conference on Wednesday.

Sommaruga said the government, for the time being, did not consider boosting the number of border guards or deploying troops to provide logistical backup.

She called for a measured and reasonable response to the attacks. “It is no good rushing into purely symbolic activity. We have to analyse the situation carefully.”

Sommaruga said the security authorities would meet regularly to consider an adequate response to a highly volatile situation. She said security at the borders, airports and railway stations had been stepped up.

Her statement comes as Defence Minister Ueli Maurer at the weekend called for increased border security. Over the past few weeks, rightwing politicians have repeatedly called for Switzerland to close its borders, notably to stop refugees from entering the country.

The conservative right People’s Party on Wednesday accused the cabinet of denying its responsibility to protect citizens from illegal immigrants.

Not practical

Sommaruga ruled out the possibility of close controls of all the about 750,000 people and 350,000 vehicles entering or leaving Switzerland from neighbouring countries every day.

Switzerland shares its 1,900 km border with Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.

In a passionate plea, Sommaruga strongly condemned the attacks in Paris.

“There is no way we can or want to accept such attacks against a fundamental value of a free society,” she said. “We have to stand together to defend our freedom.”

However, she warned against any emotional anti-Muslim sentiment or against refugees.


Sommaruga said the asylum crisis posed a serious challenge for Europe and Switzerland might soon face an increased influx of refugees.

She admitted it was possible that militants might try to come to Switzerland in the guise of asylum seekers, despite systematic checks by the intelligence service of refugees from the conflict in Syria.

Sommaruga said the cabinet agreed that there is no need to activate a special programme between the federal and cantonal authorities to manage the influx of asylum seekers.

“We can handle the situation with the measures in place now, but preparations have been speeded up for further steps,” she said.

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