Following on news of an increased presence of the Swiss army at the border with Italy to address a possibly uncontrolled influx of migrants during the summer, a senior official has proposed the construction of a barbed wire fence along the border.
Andreas Glarner, the specialist on asylum policy for the ruling Swiss People’s Party (UDC), has asked local municipalities to stop accepting any further asylum-seekers and proposed the use of barbed wire at the border.
The UDC, which picked up the majority of seats in the Federal Assembly last October, has suggested that not all asylum applications should be processed. “Faced with such mass migration, we must accept that it is not possible to examine all requests,” Glarner said. “Systematic checks at customs would have serious repercussions for immigration.”
Since for all intents and purposes France and Austria have closed their borders, the focus is on Italy. “We are facing a flood of asylum-seekers,” said the Swiss political daily Tages Anzeiger. “The only gateway to Europe passes through Italy. No one wants to stay in Italy, so everyone will come to Switzerland.”
Three weeks ago, Switzerland announced it was considering stationing a tank battalion at its southern border with Italy, just after news that Austria is considering shutting down the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria.
Switzerland declared it is weighing the option of posting tanks to secure its own border with Italy. “We expect a significant increase in the number of refugees this summer. If Austria now closes off the Brenner Pass, Switzerland will become the only gateway to Northern Europe. Before that, we have to protect ourselves,” said Norman Gobbi, the security director of the Swiss Canton of Ticino.
As other migrant routes become more restricted or close altogether, Italy is becoming increasingly the path of choice for migrants coming both from the south and from the east. Heading north through Italy, if Austria no longer becomes an option, “many will then travel to Switzerland,” Gobbi said.
According to Gobbi, migrants increasingly cross the border between Italy and Switzerland illegally. “The refugees mainly take routes outside of the official border crossings. We must prepare ourselves for a possible migrant onslaught,” he said.
During the first part of this year Italy has taken in 50 percent more refugees than during the same period in 2015, and the Italian government is forecasting the total number of migrants this year to be double that of last year. “This will not be without consequences for Switzerland,” said Gobbi.
The region has some 2,000 soldiers of the Swiss Tank Battalion at the ready, and they have been asked to postpone vacations in order to be available as needs may arise.
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