Q REPORTS – Switzerland, a country with the highest density of millionaires, a high density of billionaires, and its economy one of the world’s most advanced free-market economies, the country is not immune to the problem of homelessness.
A 2019 research by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) estimated that around 100 people sleep outside or in emergency shelters in Basel, the country’s third-most populous city. The city of Zurich estimated that at least a dozen people sleep on the street all year round.
So, the Swiss city of Basel has come up with an unusual way of dealing with the issue of homelessness – offering beggars one-way tickets to other European cities. According to the local newspaper 20 Minuten, authorities are offering homeless people rail vouchers to any destination in Europe as well as 20 Swiss francs (almost US$22).
According to Le News, 31 people have already taken up the offer – 14 from Romania, 7 from Belgium, 7 from Germany, 2 from Italy, and 1 from France.
Toprak Yergu, a spokesperson for the Basel Department of Justice, told the newspaper any homeless individual can now request such a measure.
To get the voucher, the individuals must sign a written contract promising not to return to Switzerland for a certain period of time. If they are caught returning they risk being deported from the country.
Critics of the measure dubbed it “street cleansing”.
This is not the first time that authorities in Switzerland have resorted to measures that cause people to react with surprise.
In 2014, officials in Geneva fined a homeless woman 500 CHF (Swiss Francs) – US$$547 – for begging on the streets. Unable to pay the fine, the woman was placed in detention for 5 days.
In Geneva, begging has been banned for more than 60 years. A law against begging in the canton was first added to the statutes on 1 November 1946.
However, in this case, the European Court of Human Rights decided Geneva’s sanction was not proportionate to the goal of fighting organized crime or of protecting the rights of the public.
Placed in a situation of manifest vulnerability, the applicant had a right to human dignity, said the Strasbourg-based court.
The canton of Geneva was ordered to pay the woman €922 (US$1,100) in damages.
In 2016, the government of the Swiss canton of Vaud introduced a law banning begging across the canton.
In September 2016, authorities in the Vaud canton banned begging in the area. Despite a public outcry and numerous attempts by human rights groups to overturn the ban, it still remains in place.