Zürich Flyway Robbery

This is the first EuroSavant post I can recall that is in the nature of a travel advisory. The Berlin newspaper taz reports today (Switzers rip off air-guests) on a particular nasty racket that the Swiss authorities are running out of Zürich airport.

It affects non-EU nationals who have the right to visa-free travel within the EU’s common border control-free “Schengen” area – e.g. from the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, as well as the states making up the former Yugoslavia. Ordinarily such citizens can stay within the Schengen area for 90 days, except that many Schengen states (such as even German and France) actually allow a longer stay, still without any visa.

The authorities at Zürich airport will have none of that, though: they have taken to imposing hefty fines on such non-EU nationals trying to fly back home after stays in the Schengen area that exceeded 90 days. The taz piece highlights the story of a 61 year-old American writer who was fined 9,000 Swiss francs (~€8,100) for trying to leave after having “overstayed” within Schengen for eight (8) days. But apparently this sort of thing has happened to 3,116 people in 2009, to 3,504 in 2010, resulting in 1.7 million Swiss francs in fines that latter year. (Switzerland entered the Schengen area only in December 2008.) The cruel thing about this is that those Zürich authorities demand the money just before the victim’s long-distance flight back home – if you offer any resistance or argument, you’ll miss your flight!

Reactions? The official in charge of this policy, one Hanspeter Frei, makes comments to the taz reflecting a seeming profound satisfaction with how things are. On the other hand, the Swiss Office for Non-EU Visitors can only recommend that people not use Zürich to fly out of. And the director of the National Tourist Office is quite disturbed by the whole thing.

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