Switzerland threatens to close Italian border to migrants

Switzerland threatens to close Italian border to migrants

Da Newsweek.com l The head of the cantonal government of Ticino in Switzerland has threatened to close its border with Italy to migrants, accusing Italy of not honouring it EU obligations and describing Ticino as fast becoming “the southern border of Germany”.

Norman Gobbi, the Ticino government’s president told Swiss national newspaper NZZ am Sonntag: “If the influx of refugees from Italy continues, we will have to temporarily close the border. It’s the only way for Switzerland to put pressure on other countries that do not respect their obligations,” he said.

According to Gobbi, the number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing into Switzerland over the Italian border has doubled from last year. The huge increase is due in part to France’s decision to enforce tighter controls on migrants on its border with Italy.

The Schengen Treaty, of which France and Switzerland are both member states, technically gives migrants passport-free travel around continental Europe.

Clashes erupted last week on the French-Italian border when Italian police were ordered to round up the migrants and refugees who had been sleeping rough on the frontier for days, hoping to continue their journeys into northern Europe.

Yet Italy bore the brunt of Gobbi’s criticism, who accused it of failing to honour the terms of the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that the country in the European Union where an asylum seeker first arrives is the country responsible for dealing with that migrant’s asylum claim.

France also continues to insist that the migrants are Italy’s responsibility under the Dublin Regulation. “The Dublin rules must be respected,” Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said earlier this month. “When migrants arrive in France that have been through Italy and registered there, European law applies and that means they must be returned to Italy.”

So far in 2015, Switzerland has reportedly detained more than 3,000 people, most of whom try to enter the country from Italy by train. Official estimates suggest that more than 30,000 people will apply for asylum in Switzerland by the end of the year – the highest number since 1999. Most of them come from the African countries of Eritrea, Somalia, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as Kosovo.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 50,000 refugees have arrived in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean in precariously fragile boats.

Yesterday, Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi and French president Francois Hollande played down tensions between the two counties over the migrant crisis, with Renzi comparing the two leaders to an engaged couple.

“I don’t think there are tensions between us… sometimes ministers can let themselves go with statements, it’s like engaged couples who have been together a long time,” he said during a press conference in Milan.


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