The number of migrants entering Switzerland has increased significantly. Many have no chance of asylum, they come from countries like India, Tunisia or Burundi.
Switzerland has now decided on an action plan with Austria – in particular to put pressure on Serbia. Because people from these countries can enter Serbia without a visa. From there they continue to flee to EU countries or Switzerland. Federal Councilor Karin Keller-Sutter considers the Schengen-Dublin system to be in need of reform.
Karin Keller Sutter
Keller-Sutter has been a member of the Federal Council since January 1, 2019. Since then she has been the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). From 2000 to 2012, the FDP politician was a member of the government of the canton of St. Gallen. She was head of the Security and Justice Department at the time. From 2011 until her election to the Federal Council, Keller-Sutter was a member of the Council of States.
SRF News: Madam Federal Councilor, today you signed an action plan against irregular migration with Austria. That didn’t even happen during the 2015 refugee crisis. Is the situation more difficult now than it was then?
Karin Keller-Sutter: It’s a different situation. We have really strongly increasing numbers on the eastern border. About 80 percent of the people who come on the Balkan route travel to Serbia or other countries in the Western Balkans without a visa and are then taken to Austria by smugglers. There is a high level of migration pressure, including from people who are not in need of protection. There are people from India or Tunisia who can take advantage of this visa exemption.
There is now speculation as to whether this is politically desirable. Because Serbia is very close to Russia. What’s your impression?
I have no proof of this. What can be said, however, is that migration is of course a means of exerting pressure. We have to see that we already have a migration movement from Ukraine that we haven’t had since the Second World War. 4 million refugees in Europe and now at the same time actually a migration movement that is sometimes as strong as in 2015 and 2016.
They say it’s leverage. Is the bargaining chip successful?
It is of course the case that you can use migration policy issues to create a mood, that you can sow discord. I have the impression that in relation to Ukraine that didn’t work out, that solidarity is there, also at European level. But with this migration movement, which is largely irregular, the enthusiasm is of course very limited.
Today’s decision is also a signal to the EU, which should put pressure on Serbia. Is it primarily a symbolic decision, or does it also help the border guards?
No state can solve these problems alone. Hence the European level. You have to take them into account as well. The EU has other means of pressure on the Balkan states, which grant visa-free travel. She can ask them to join the Schengen visa process. That would help us a lot.
It was also decided that they wanted to put pressure on a reform of the Schengen-Dublin system that applies in the EU. Does that mean, from your point of view, this system no longer works?
It simply needs reform and people have been trying to improve it for years. But it always fails because of the different interests. But there is some progress. The Schengen Borders Code, to be reformed, should come next year. That would be important for Switzerland, for the return of people in a short period of time.
The conversation was led by Larissa Rhyn.