In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Christian Bock, director of the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security, said that the number of migrants reminded him of the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016.
In September, 6,600 migrants were stopped at Swiss borders. The hotspot is the eastern border, where last week alone security personnel registered a record 1,150 people. The southern border with Italy has also seen an increase.
“The numbers here are not worrying but we have to realise that Italy only has a readmission capacity of about 40-50 people a day,” said Bock.
The nationality mix is different than in 2015 when there were much larger numbers of people from Syria. About half of people picked up at the borders are Afghans while the other half includes people from North Africa, India, Cuba and Burundi.
Bock attributes this to the fact that many people can enter Serbia without a visa and then make their way to Switzerland.
The relaxation of pandemic-era restrictions has brought an increase in the numbers of migrants taking the Balkan route into Europe’s prosperous heartland.
Switzerland is primarily a transit country, explained Bock. Many migrants leave Serbia and travel via Austria and then Switzerland on to France or Britain. When they are checked in Switzerland, they are usually sent back to where they came from, he said. “If we did nothing, we would accept transit migration,” which isn’t allowed under international refugee law.
He added that the border security conducts an identity check, including fingerprints to at least determine if the person is in need of help or is wanted by the police.