Ticino threatens closing Italy border to refugees

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Ticino President Norman Gobbi. Photo: Twitter
09:17 CEST+02:00
The head of the cantonal government of Ticino is warning that the border with Italy will have to be closed to refugees to stem the tide of asylum seekers entering Switzerland.

“If the influx of refugees from Italy continues, we will have to temporarily close the border,” Norman Gobbi, the Ticino government's president told NZZ am Sonntag.

“It’s the only way for Switzerland to put pressure on other countries that do not respect their obligations,” Gobbi said.

He said the number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing the border from Italy had doubled from a year ago

Gobbi complaind that Swiss authorities “were doing work for Italy and the European Union, notably with the identification of migrants.”

He said that when its comes to asylum seekers, Ticino has become the “southern border of Germany”.

Gobbi suggested the pressure had only risen since France decided to close its border to refugees travelling from Italy.

But he was particularly critical of Italy for not honouring the Dublin Regulation, which requires that the first country in the EU where an asylum seeker arrives is responsible for dealing with his or her claim.

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

From January to May 2015, Swiss border guards in Ticino have apprehended 3,150 people for unlawful stay in Switzerland, a spokesman for the border guards told NZZ am Sonntag.

Most of them came from the African countries of Eritrea, Somalia, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as Kosovo.

The State Secretariat for Migration informed cantonal governments that the number of asylum seekers will continue to rise this year, NZZ am Sonntag said, citing a confidential document.

Over the summer, the level of monthly requests is expected to surpass 3,000.

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“For this reason it cannot be excluded that in 2015 more than 30,000 people will apply for asylum,” the document reportedly says.

That’s the highest level since 1999.

The overwhelming majority — 95 percent — of migrants arrive in Switzerland by train, according to Swiss border guards.

Many are deported to Italy, but “repatriation is a problem because Italian authorities are not prepared for it”, Gobbi said.  

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