This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.
23 October 2015
On a recent trip to Ticino, Eric and I took the opportunity, along with some of my Embassy team, to visit the southern Swiss border at Chiasso to meet with the Swiss Border Guards. The Swiss shared what they have been experiencing and showed us where people typically come in to the country. Here are some of the data points that the Swiss shared with us about Chiasso (this doesn’t include other border entries into Switzerland):
- Before 2012, in Chiasso, there were approximately 50 illegal immigrants arriving/week
- After the Arab spring, that increased to 100-130/week
- Since May of 2015, that has ballooned to 350/week
- People are arriving via rail, road, air, and ground.
It was fascinating to see the work they are doing to treat people with dignity and to communicate with them – even when some of those individuals can’t read or write. For example – they have created videos without words that they bring out on iPads to help communicate and give instructions solely in visuals. They also have recorded some videos in the migrants’ language – for example, in language that Eritreans would understand (I didn’t learn if that was Arabic or Tigrigna).
Demonstrating the deep levels of collaboration between the Italians and the Swiss, within this one receiving room, one end is Italy and the other is Switzerland. Therefore, In order to help people understand that they are now in Switzerland, the red maps and flags are where Switzerland begins.
More pictures are here.
One last point: I also appreciated that, amidst all of their work, the border guards also try to identify and catch and/or thwart situations that entail trafficking in persons.