Coronavirus travel restrictions derail smuggling activities
Travel restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus have led to a major drop in cross-border smuggling activity, as well as in illegal entries and stays in Switzerland, according to customs authorities.
Smuggling activity decreased by 67% in early 2020 compared to the same period last year, the Federal Customs Administration announced on Wednesday. Between January and April this year, there have been 94 cases of smuggling, compared to 140 cases in the first four months of 2019.
The sharp decline began after the announcement of travel restrictions in March. In April, border guards, reinforced by the military, registered ten suspected cases of smuggling. In the same month last year there were 31.
Entry controls and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have also reduced the number of illegal entries and stays in Switzerland. The customs office recorded a nearly 80% drop in illegal entry cases for April. There were 517 and 217 illegal entries recorded in March and April respectively. In comparison, some 1,116 cases were recorded in April last year.
Illegal stays have fallen by about half. The customs authority documented 2,830 cases in early 2020 compared to 4,598 cases between January and April 2019. Last month, Swiss border guards handed over 63 persons who had illegally entered Switzerland to foreign authorities. That compares to 466 handovers in April 2019.
Switzerland shares a border with Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, Liechtenstein and Austria to the east. The Alpine nation is part of the Schengen area.
People smugglers, cross-border cash truck heists, and black-market dealers bringing in illegal livestock medicine into Switzerland have all been recent focal points of police operations.