Few problems in first month of burka ban

The police fined Nora Illi for defying the headgear ban. Keystone/Ti-Press

It’s been a month since a so-called burka ban took effect in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton, Ticino. Except for two fines and a few warnings, it seems that little has changed there. In fact, tourism from Arab countries is up. 

swissinfo.ch, with input from Gerhard Lob, Ticino

On day one of the ban – which prohibits clothing that covers the face – a Swiss woman who had converted to Islam provoked the first fine. A few days ago, police in Chiasso – just over the Swiss border – issued the second fine of CHF100 ($103). Police in Lugano, meanwhile, have intervened six times so far. 

For example: “A woman came with her family for a day trip from Milan, and she simply didn’t know about the ban,” Lugano police lieutenant Franco Macchi told swissinfo.ch. “She apologised and removed her veil.” She wasn’t fined. 

In terms of the local economy, it’s unclear whether the ban has had a negative effect. Fearing the worst in terms of bookings, the Ticino branch of the Swiss Hotel Association (Hotelleriesuisse) prepared flyers explaining the ban for veiled women and their husbands. 

“We have Arabic guests, and there are reservations. Evidently, the law hasn’t been such a deterrent,” Hotelleriesuisse Ticino president Lorenzo Pianezzi told swissinfo.ch. Pianezzi, who is also the director of Hotel Walter on Lake Lugano, says that his hotel has 20% more guests from the Arab countries than it did at this time last year. Nearby, Hotel Splendide Royal reported that it hadn’t experienced a decline in bookings. At the moment, 90% of its guests are Arabs. One guest had been advised of the ban, and she took it on board without a problem, according to the hotel. 

Similarly, the Swissminiatur attraction has had just one case where a guest needed to be informed of the new law. 

“We simply told the husband that his wife would have to remove her veil,” Swissminiatur manager Dominique Vuigner told swissinfo.ch. The park, which presents the Swiss landscape in miniature, has specifically hired an Egyptian employee to advise guests in Arabic. 

However, tourists are resorting to innovative ways to cope with the ban on face-coverings. There have been cases in Ticino where women removed their veils but donned large sunglasses and medical face masks.

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