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“Illegal migration”

Official terminology often uses the term “illegal migration” to describe persons coming to live in Switzerland without official authorisation. We prefer to speak of “regular” migration to describe legal and regulatory procedures related to immigration, which is opposed to “irregular” immigration, which exists outside the legal framework.

The dual system of admission or Fortress Europe

Since 1998, Switzerland has applied a migration policy called the “dual system of admission.” Amongst those who are not Swiss, the law makes a fundamental distinction in terms of status between Europeans, who are subject to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), and non-Europeans, who cannot claim this right.

The Schengen system

Border controls should not be confused with free movement. Free movement is a right, granted by the international AFMP convention. The Schengen Agreement concerns border controls. You can be checked while having the right to cross the border.

Some important aspects of the Schengen Agreement:

  • cooperation on external border controls
  • common policies on short-stay visas
  • police cooperation and data sharing (especially SIS data)

Citizens from a third (non-Schengen) country are subject to the same entry requirements, whether they enter the Schengen Area for example by ship in the Netherlands, through an airport in Switzerland or by train in Poland. The area of Schengen cooperation covers most of the EU (22 EU member states) and the four associated states (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) (source: SEM)

On 26 October 2004, Switzerland entered into a Schengen association agreement and a Dublin association agreement (both websites are available in French, Italian and German). These agreements entered into force on 1 March 2008 and Switzerland was connected to the SIS system on 14 August 2008. On 12 December 2008, the agreement became operational, thereby eliminating identity checks at borders inside the Schengen area. In airports, checks were eliminated on 29 March 2009. (source:–defence-and-migration/the-schengen-agreement-and-the-dublin-regulation.html)