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Old 20.03.2010, 20:05
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German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

I'm British, my wife and kids are British and we are of Muslim descent, which is evident from our names.

We've been living in Zurich now for over 12 months after relocating from the UK and since we've been here we have had a fantastic time. We have found Switzerland to be a fabulous place and the Swiss to be highly welcoming and hospital people. Never have we experienced any type of xenophobia or racisim, despite all the media hype.

This weekend my father and his wife (both British citizens) visited us and we decided to go to Konstanz, just over the border in to Germany.

On our return to Switzerland, at the border, the Swiss customs officials decided to pull our car over. They asked whether we had nything to declare, to which we responded "no". After which, they asked us for our passports, which I duly handed over.

We spent over 10 minutes waiting for them to return with the passports and when the senior customs official returned with them he asked me where my father and his wife entered into Switzerland? I explained that they had arrived two nights ago at Zurich airport. He responded by giving me a very lengthy lecture on how 1. they should have insisted on having their passports stamped upon their entry to Zurich; and 2. they only have a mximum of 3 months stay in Switzerland.

I found the lecture to be very upsetting and unnecessary.

I explained that as a British Citizen, I have never had experience of needing to insist to Swiss customs upon arrival that my passport get stamped. He said that for my father and his wife it was different because they are not residing in Switzerland. I told him politely that he was wrong and that my British friends and colleagues who frequently visit Switzerland, never have such an issue on needing to get their passports stamped. They never get them stamped, only checked. He did not argue further, just said that he thought I was wrong and that I should be on my way, there are no further issues.

Have I had my first experience of racism through this incident? Or is it more likely that I have encountered an incompetent official?

I know I should not let such an incident get me down, but it really spoilt what was otherwise an excellent day trip for me and my family.

In any case, given my past interaction with my Swiss friends and colleagues, I will not let this detract from the excellent experience I am having here and my view of Switzerland.

Comments most welcome.

Thanks for reading.
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:13
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Hi

You must have surely come across some incompetent fellow!!

Ignore!
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:13
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

What exactly makes you believe it was racist? Sorry to ask, but just because you are of a different race does not necessary mean that you received your treatment based on your foreign name or look.
Did you get the impression that you were treated differently than the others at the border? Do you cross the border often by car? I got searched very thoroughly before in a way over the top attitude (looking for example into the hollow areas around the reserve wheel and so on...). I never blamed it on Swiss not liking Germans, but simply on an officer getting anal... "because he can".

Did you have any points that make you believe it is about religion or race?
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:17
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

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I'm British, my wife and kids are British and we are of Muslim descent, which is evident from our names.

We've been living in Zurich now for over 12 months after relocating from the UK and since we've been here we have had a fantastic time. We have found Switzerland to be a fabulous place and the Swiss to be highly welcoming and hospital people. Never have we experienced any type of xenophobia or racisim, despite all the media hype.

This weekend my father and his wife (both British citizens) visited us and we decided to go to Konstanz, just over the border in to Germany.

On our return to Switzerland, at the border, the Swiss customs officials decided to pull our car over. They asked whether we had nything to declare, to which we responded no> After which, they asked us for our passports, which I duly handed over.

We spent over 10 minutes waiting for them to return with the passports and when the senior customs official returned with them he asked me where my father and his wife entered into Switzerland? I explained that they arrived two nights ago in Zurich airport. He responded by giving me a very lengthy lecture on how 1. they should have insisted on having their passports stamped upon their entry to Zurich; and 2. they only have a mximum of 3 months stay in Zurich.

I found the lecture to be very upsetting. I explained that as a British Citizen, I have never had experience of needing to insist to Swiss customs upon arrival that my passport get stamped. He said that for my father and his wife it is different, because they are not living in Switzerland. I told him politely that he was wrong and that my British friends and colleagues who frequently visit Switzerland, never have such an issue. He did not argue further, but just said that I should be on my way.

Have I has my first experience of Swiss racism through this incident? Or is it more likely that I have encountered an incompetent official?

I know I should not let such an incident get me down, but it really spoilt what was otherwise an excellent day trip with me and my family.

In any case, given my past interaction with my Swiss friends and colleagues, I will not let this detract from the excellent experience I am having here.

Comments most welcome.

Thanks for reading.
For a start a British citizen can come and go in Switzerland as he/she pleases (no stamps required) as long as the don't intend staying for more than 3 months in one go....that's another story.

So take your own advice "In any case, given my past interaction with my Swiss friends and colleagues, I will not let this detract from the excellent experience I am having here."

Have a nice evening
Regards
a Kiwi, Brit and Swiss guy
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:22
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

I have no evidence of racism. The suspicion of racism is purely driven by the completely inaccurate lecture he gave me on the necessity to ensure that your British passport get stamped upon entry into Switzerland. For a custom official to insist on giving a spurious and factually incorrect lecture on no basis whatsoever is what had led me to the suspicion.
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:26
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

There is nothing more to talk about here and a "Mod" will close this post soon I am sure.


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I have no evidence of racism. The suspicion of racism is purely driven by the completely inaccurate lecture he gave me on the necessity to ensure that your British passport get stamped upon entry into Switzerland. For a custom official to insist on giving a spurious and factually incorrect lecture on no basis whatsoever is what had led me to the suspicion.
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Old 20.03.2010, 20:27
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

I think its not racist..officer was just being cautious seeing a different race, i take it as a normal behavior.

I am an indian muslim and am a frequently traveller. Once while getting down the aircraft (it was a small one..travelling from london to zurich), I was stopped my a Ploizie and my passport,swiss residence card and UK visa was checked...though there were some 50-60 more passengers but I was the only one checked.....i was the only asian..but I love this extra attention which I am paid in every airport...especially in my own country..delhi and mumbai

welcome to planet earth !!!
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:01
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

I think he was just an incompetent agent.
I know the customs agents are under big pressure: jobs cutting due to Schengen agreement. They need to show and proove that they are still needed to protect the country...that could explain sometimes their attitude.
Bud we should not be blind, any traveller with muslim or arabic bakcground gets a special attention by official agents.
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:17
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

It is not simply "racist" or not

It is selective and the police officers have special instructions about which races or origins to check closer.

I am latin american, and even though I am tall and pale, there is no way you can tell me I look european, I look south american for every side.

When living in Geneva I crossed the border often, by foot, by bike, bike car.

I was almost never checked.

I had a friend at work who lived in France and who is half american/half french and we had another colleage, he was a black african from Mali.

We went several times all three together to his house in France.

Every single time we passed the border. we were stopped and they asked passport to the black guy.

Sometimes even they didn't asked me or my french/american friend, they only asked it to the black guy.

Same history with another morocan friend, he was stopped and searched everytime we crossed the border.

Racism ? or they were just being selective because they were instructed to keep a close eye on africans and maghrebins ?
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:28
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

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Racism ? or they were just being selective because they were instructed to keep a close eye on africans and maghrebins ?
I would actually call that racism. What else is it if your skin color makes the difference?

The cases you describe are of course not racism by the individual officer, but institutional racism through the orders they got. Of course we all know that not all stereotypes are completely wrong and that they do this profiling for a reason. Since I have a Swiss number on my car, I never get stopped entering Germany, as long as I had an German one, they always stopped me. They always eyed papers they found in the glove compartment or otherwise lying around. It is not a secret that more than 90% of untaxed German money at least passes through Switzerland, so they clearly had their orders. Does not make it less racial profiling.
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:37
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Hate to tell you the truth, but Swiss border police do take extra notice of passengers or travelers of Muslim or Arab (looking) origin whatever their passports happen to be, just like any other western nation. If you take a look at the demographics, the UK has a lot of Muslim citizens, just as France equally has Arab nationals heralding from North Africa and beyond. All customs and immigration officers worldwide have an idealistic picture of people or cars that they will wave through without a second glance and then there are things that they are told to flag and investigate.

I have a friend who works for Swiss Customs and every cliché that you may think is folklore is not a myth. You drive through across the border in your mid-size station wagon with your wife and 2.2 happy smiling kids and you'll rarely be stopped. Same car, darken the glass with foil, look scruffy and wear sunglasses and guess what's going to happen? You may want to call it racist or biased, you may want to argue your case, but nothing's about to change. Same situation at the airport, potential passengers arriving from Africa in ZRH are screened long before they get to passport control. You might think it unfair, but the customs guys have to filter the traffic using their experience. Now as far as you getting your passports stamped, I've never heard of that requirement for an EU passport holder to need that. Sounds like a line of BS IMO.
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:40
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Please don´t take this wrong, maybe through heightened and acute UK Moslem sensitivities you fell into the trap of seeing things a bit too tight. My suggestion, with all due respect, is to advise you to grow a thicker skin and don´t let something like that ruin your day, that will not be the last time and maybe it will not the worst incident.
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Old 20.03.2010, 21:59
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

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I'm British, my wife and kids are British and we are of Muslim descent, which is evident from our names.

We've been living in Zurich now for over 12 months after relocating from the UK and since we've been here we have had a fantastic time. We have found Switzerland to be a fabulous place and the Swiss to be highly welcoming and hospital people. Never have we experienced any type of xenophobia or racisim, despite all the media hype.

This weekend my father and his wife (both British citizens) visited us and we decided to go to Konstanz, just over the border in to Germany.

On our return to Switzerland, at the border, the Swiss customs officials decided to pull our car over. They asked whether we had nything to declare, to which we responded "no". After which, they asked us for our passports, which I duly handed over.

We spent over 10 minutes waiting for them to return with the passports and when the senior customs official returned with them he asked me where my father and his wife entered into Switzerland? I explained that they had arrived two nights ago at Zurich airport. He responded by giving me a very lengthy lecture on how 1. they should have insisted on having their passports stamped upon their entry to Zurich; and 2. they only have a mximum of 3 months stay in Switzerland.

I found the lecture to be very upsetting and unnecessary.

I explained that as a British Citizen, I have never had experience of needing to insist to Swiss customs upon arrival that my passport get stamped. He said that for my father and his wife it was different because they are not residing in Switzerland. I told him politely that he was wrong and that my British friends and colleagues who frequently visit Switzerland, never have such an issue on needing to get their passports stamped. They never get them stamped, only checked. He did not argue further, just said that he thought I was wrong and that I should be on my way, there are no further issues.

Have I had my first experience of racism through this incident? Or is it more likely that I have encountered an incompetent official?

I know I should not let such an incident get me down, but it really spoilt what was otherwise an excellent day trip for me and my family.

In any case, given my past interaction with my Swiss friends and colleagues, I will not let this detract from the excellent experience I am having here and my view of Switzerland.

Comments most welcome.

Thanks for reading.
Well, your BRITISH passport is not a paramount. They did their job, if they had some doubts, they check them out.
I worked and lived for 2 years in a Scandinavian country, and I encountered border officials asking me the purpose, the duration of my visit etc. even though it was written in black on the stamp in my passport. I smiled and explained it all as if they were retards. At the end they even smiled back and wished me all the best
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Old 20.03.2010, 22:17
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

The fact that they didn't actually do anything, indicates to me that they pulled you with the intention of doing something but didn't find anything actually wrong.

At this point they are in a quandary and are only left with the option of the pompous lecture with no actual value and possibly little factual relevance.

If you were in my country, this **** happens all of the time to nice people like you. Sorry for that, as my daughter is from India, and I am offended just thinking about it.

BTW, "profiling" is not only racist, but it is also decidedly ineffective. Ask any security professional. Notice, I did not say two bit cop or boarder agent or politician or bureaucrat. So the answer is, Both!

Don't let it bother you too much, as you can find so many other things to annoy you in this world/country/continent and this is one of the better ones.

BTW, I am blonde haired, blue eyed, 6 foot, Scandinavian decent and so is my wife and we have only been looked at funny once at a boarder crossing in over a year of doing so. Get a station wagon/estate/break/touring and smile at the guards when you cross, is my advice.

Good Luck,
Brian.
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Old 20.03.2010, 22:33
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Double post Duh!
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Old 20.03.2010, 22:34
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

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I have no evidence of racism. The suspicion of racism is purely driven by the completely inaccurate lecture he gave me on the necessity to ensure that your British passport get stamped upon entry into Switzerland. For a custom official to insist on giving a spurious and factually incorrect lecture on no basis whatsoever is what had led me to the suspicion.
If you look through more threads here in the EF you will find that lecturing or giving your opinion even when you do not know the person is a Swiss-pass time Do not think too much about this, it was just somebody being incompetent
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Old 20.03.2010, 23:01
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Definitely do not be offended. I am a white woman in my 30's and easily pass for Swiss or German until I speak. I have traveled many times to Italy, France, and Germany and have been pulled over at the Swiss border at least one out of every 4 times I cross over. They ask for my passport and check it, and thoroughly search the contents of my car. It's the Swiss way. And they certainly do love to lecture!
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Old 20.03.2010, 23:42
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

Of course it was racist. For goodness sake, KEEP UP AT THE BACK.

Quote:
He responded by giving me a very lengthy lecture on how 1. they should have insisted on having their passports stamped upon their entry to Zurich
Which part of
Quote:
This weekend my father and his wife (both British citizens)
did you not understand? As EU citizens we DON'T NEED TO HAVE OUR PASSPORTS STAMPED
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Old 21.03.2010, 00:01
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

I have had similar experiences. I have lived in Geneve for the past 3 years. (just recently moved to Zurich) In Geneve the French borders surround you on all sides. So crossing the border is a regular and sometimes daily event. I have been stopped on numerous occasions. Every time I get a different story about why I/We have been stopped and questioned. And every time the answer I get conflicts with the answer I received before. I have asked specifically at the border what documentation I need to have with me when crossing. And I have asked the same question when renewing my B permit. There again, I get a different answer every time. So now I always carry my passport, B permit and Swiss driver's license when I am going to be crossing the border. And I always ask for a stamp when I come into the country. Most of the time when passing through customs at the airport They will not give me a stamp after they see my B permit.
I would not consider this to be racism. It just sounds like standard Swiss operating procedure.
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Old 21.03.2010, 00:29
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Re: German-Swiss Border Racism or Incompetence?

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Of course it was racist. For goodness sake, KEEP UP AT THE BACK.

Which part of did you not understand? As EU citizens we DON'T NEED TO HAVE OUR PASSPORTS STAMPED
It is the second time you give me bad rep for nothing. What is your problem with me or my post? Could you get a little more used to the way we use this feature on the forum or did my post really offend you?

I honestly asked why he thinks it was racist. I understood the folks were British nationals, which is not the point. The OP pointed out that he has a different religion, unusual name and probably looks differently. That is all ok, but i wondered why it is automatically connected to the incident. If the police did similar long checks with other nationals there, it would not be racist and targeted, but simply an incompetent police guy.
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