Switzerland demands end to German border checks

Switzerland demands end to German border checks

Since mid-October 2023, Germany has imposed border checks on travellers from Switzerland, disrupting cross-border workers and public transport in border areas like Basel. Despite calls from the Swiss government to end the policy, which they say is unnecessary, German authorities are yet to be swayed.

German border checks bring disruption to Basel public transport

For three months, passengers on trams in Basel have been faced with a new inconvenience on routes from the city to neighbouring German towns. German police confirmed that they stopped almost all tram services headed to the federal republic as part of temporary anti-people smuggling measures imposed by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Germany’s borders with Switzerland, Czechia and Poland.

Officers are ordered to check the IDs, passports, visas or residence permits of everyone on board the tram. Those who do not have a valid permit to enter Germany are either sent back to Switzerland or redirected to a reception centre for asylum seekers. 

BVB, the public transport provider for Basel, said that the checks often take up to 10 minutes, creating excessive delays for passengers - according to the company, on average cross-border trams spend an hour and 40 minutes stationary every day. Company spokesperson Matthias Steiger told CH Media that some trams have been forced to be re-routed because of the checks, and they have already started to receive complaints from disgruntled passengers.

Swiss government fails to get border checks with Germany scrapped

According to CH Media, the Swiss government is also not a fan of the new border checks, with Federal Councillor and former Justice and Police Department head Élisabeth Baume-Schneider arguing that the measures were "unnecessary" in a parliamentary debate. She made the point that there is already an agreement on illegal migration between Germany and Switzerland, one that doesn’t involve excessive border checks by one side and not the other.

In fact, Blick has now revealed that the Swiss government has tried to get Germany to scrap the border checks on multiple occasions. Baume-Schneider confirmed to the press that she had called Nancy Faeser several times, sought personal conversations with her at EU meetings and even wrote a letter to her on December 13, demanding that checks at the Swiss border be relaxed - all to no avail. 

Now, it will be up to the new Justice Minister and Federal Councillor Beat Jans from Basel to get the measures scrapped. Federal authorities speaking to Blick hoped that they would be able to get Germany to end border checks with Switzerland by mid-March.

SVP calls for Switzerland-Germany border checks

However, for their part, the German government shows no sign of taking Switzerland off their border checklist. Speaking on December 15, Faeser said that the “measures are working”, adding that in October and November last year, 3.700 people were refused entry to Germany from Switzerland. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that the controls have as little impact as possible on the everyday life of commuters, on trade and on travel,” she concluded.

The policy is not without its fans in Switzerland either, with the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) calling for the country to impose its own checks on German travellers. However, this has been dismissed by the Federal Council as the country already carries out checks on “suspicious persons”, with officials adding that hard checks will be only implemented “in the event of a serious threat to internal security.”

Thumb image credit: Leitenberger Photography /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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