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Yesterday I went by bus from the Euroairport (French sector) to Zurich. Unusually, two Swiss border checks took place.

First, at the St-Louis border checkpoint, officials boarded the bus, asking foreigners (including me) where they were going, for what purpose and for how long, and collecting all passports for scanning. This check took 30 minutes.

10 minutes after leaving the border, the bus stopped at the scheduled bus stop in Basel, where a mobile team of officials boarded with portable passport devices. They scanned all passports and visas and checked entry/exit stamps. Myself I was asked where I was going, where in Switzerland I live, for what purpose I live there, where I was travelling from and for how long I'd been there. This check took 15 minutes.

How come the same authority (the Grenzwache) would check the same bus twice, given that no passengers can get on/off the bus between the border and the bus stop in Basel?

  • Slightly related: are Swiss border guards even allowed to question EU citizens? I've thought freedom of movement applies there as well. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 15 '17 at 10:08
  • Not really an answer, but could be to double check nobody had been missed in the first checkpoint. Check no one came out the luggage compartment or anything. – Oliver Houston Dec 15 '17 at 11:43
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    Is there any reason to believe the authority knowingly checked the same bus twice, as opposed to just having two separate groups of officials that didn't know what the other was doing? Plenty of government actions boil down to "my boss told me to stand over here and check these people" and "my boss told me to stand over there and check those people." – Zach Lipton Dec 15 '17 at 12:11
  • One thing that used to happen in Basel (when crossing by train, before Schengen) is to have both a federal check (Grenzwache*/*garde-frontière) and a cantonal police check. They would walk together on the train and make a point of checking people twice (or three times, when the Zoll*/*douane was present), pointing out they were from different organisations when people expressed surprise. – Relaxed Dec 15 '17 at 13:26
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    @Relaxed I see. Never had a cantonal police check happen at the land border before. These were both by the Grenzwache – Crazydre Dec 15 '17 at 14:30
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There cannot be and will not be a fact based answer. However, this question can be asked for a lot of security/border checkposts etc. E.g. Why do you have to go through security check again at some transit airports although you had a securtiy check at you origin of departure? Why are sometimes multiple security checks at airports?

The answer is always the same: It increases securtiy or it increases the feeling of security. The first possibility is most of the times the "official" one. However, to my opinion it is most of the time the second possibility which is the "real answer".

So for your specific case. Switzerlands oficials can now state that they 1) control the border and 2) control (maybe randomly) buses/trucks whatever within the country. Or that they increased the controls.

Is it somehow unlogical to control the same bus two times? Maybe yes, however you postulate that the controls are for the pure purpose of the control itself and not for political reasons (=feeling for security). Still you might argue, that a double control is always more save than a single on, in theory the bus can of course stop between border and basel and get more/less passengers etc.

Regarding the question of JonathanReez: Since June 12th 2017 there are systemic border controls between Germany and Switzerland because of the "refugee crisis" (source in german, just translate the second header)

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    I'm referring to EU citizens in particular - are Swiss border guards allowed to deny them entry at the intra-Schengen border? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 15 '17 at 13:12
  • Being present at the border and performing checks is one thing but as Jonathan says, they should stop as soon as they established a person's EU citizenship. In theory, they can take all the time in the world to double-check the documents, try to match your fingerprints to the ones recorded in the document, detain you on suspicions of fraud (not being the holder of that passport), etc. but not ask about your purpose, it just isn't relevant. – Relaxed Dec 15 '17 at 13:25
  • @JonathanReez under very special circumstances you are allowed to deny entry for EU citizens even within schengen. see: gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_freiz_gg_eu/… – Gnusper Dec 15 '17 at 13:41
  • @Gnusper Being a threat to “public policy, public security or public health” is a very high standard to meet. Those rules apply to the whole EU (i.e. they are completely unrelated to the Schengen area) but still do not justify an inquiry about the purpose of a trip. – Relaxed Dec 15 '17 at 13:50
  • @Relaxed I just answered Jonathans question. Of course it is a very high standard, but in theory it is possible. And about the justification: Maybe they are not allowed to inquire the purpose of a trip and if they do it and you go to the court you will win. However, a future court decision does not help you in the respective situation. And the rules are related to Schenken area in that way, that they apply to the Schengen areas whereas other EU wide rules do not apply to Schengen area - therefore I wrote "even within Schengen". – Gnusper Dec 15 '17 at 14:01

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