Following a 2023 Federal Court ruling, canton Basel City changed its practice towards begging and expelled eleven beggars from Eastern Europe from Switzerland.
According to a ruling of the Federal Supreme Court of March 2023, anyone who is in Switzerland to beg is not allowed to stay. Basel City is now implementing this ruling and police patrols are specifically looking for beggars.
If the police patrols meet beggars from a European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country, they play them a voice message – if possible in their mother tongue – telling them that they have no right of residence if they are in Switzerland to beg.
The new practice is having an effect. Currently, an estimated 15 to 20 people from Eastern Europe are begging in Basel, says a police officer on begging patrol. Before the ruling and the authorities’ crackdown, there were considerably more, about 170 people, he says.
Since the start of these operations, almost 50 people have been played such voice messages, says Adrian Plachesi, spokesman for Basel police. “So far, 46 informal requests have been issued by the staff of the cantonal police of Basel.”
But the authorities have not only issued summonses. “Furthermore, 11 formal expulsions have been ordered,” Plachesi continued. People who were caught begging again after the warning had to leave Switzerland.
If the police catch someone for the third time, the person in question risks an entry ban. However, this has not happened so far, according to Plachesi.
Controversial interpretation of the ruling
The Basel authorities’ approach is new. Before the Federal Court ruling, beggars from Eastern Europe were allowed to enter the country. It was assumed that they had a right to stay for three months.
However, in March the Federal Supreme Court made a “clarification”, according to Rahel Walser of the Basel Justice and Security Department. “Destitute people from EU or EFTA countries who only come to Switzerland to beg do not fulfil the entry conditions,” she says. “They are neither considered recipients of services nor gainfully employed.”
With the ruling, the cantons would therefore have the possibility to classify both the entry and stay of these people as “unlawful if they beg”.
However, this interpretation of the ruling is controversial. “Are you now no longer allowed to enter or stay in Switzerland if you are affected by poverty?” asks Christian von Wartburg of Democratic Lawyers Switzerland. “Ultimately, one is then forced to ask for alms in order to make a living.” This question has not been conclusively clarified, despite the Federal Supreme Court ruling.
Bern’s harsh practices
However, Basel authorities are not the only ones to take rigorous action against beggars from Eastern Europe. Canton Bern is doing something similar, since it has been turning them away since 2018. Until last summer, Bern’s practice was considered particularly harsh. In the meantime, Bern sees its own approach confirmed by the Federal Supreme Court.
Source : SWI