A BURKA BAN has been come into force Switzerland with Muslims who break the new law forced to pay a fine of almost £8,000.
by Zoie O’brien (Express)
It is now illegal to wear a face veil in public in the Tessin region following the result of a referendum on the issue in 2013, in which 65 per cent voted in favour of a complete ban.
The anti-burka-law, which bans face veils, burkas and the niqab, came into force on July 1 and will be enforced by police in the area.
Michele Bertini, FDP city council and police director in Lugano, sent out leaflets on the issue in Arabic and an ‘intercultural mediator’ was brought in to train police to deal with the potential fallout.
Anyone caught wearing a veil can be fined up to €9,200 (£7,890).
Of the 350,000 inhabitants in the Italian speaking area about 70 per cent are Roman Catholic and there are barely any Muslim residents.
But it is feared the ban will affect Muslim tourists, who spend each year spend around 40,000 nights in the city of Lugano alone.
The hotel industry makes approximately 19million CHF, or Swiss Franc, a year from tourists from the Middle East.
Ticino Turismo, the tourist information centre, said the wish of the sovereignty would be “respected” but it is feared veiled women will avoid the area altogether.
However it was also suggested guests from the Gulf States make up only 2.1 per cent of overnight stays.
Despite the concern local government officials will not oppose the strong vote from the public.
A national committee has been set up and is collecting signatures to expand the ban across the rest of Switzerland.
Amongst the supporters are politicians of the right wing Swiss People’s Party and the right populist Lega die Ticinesi, who had already supported the ban in Tessin.
Norman Gobbi, Lega politician and director of justice for Tessin, said several tourists will shun the area and stay in nearby Como in Italy instead.
The Saudi Arabian embassy in Bern has warned its citizens visiting Switzerland this summer to be careful not to break the law.
A statement said on Twitter: “The embassy wishes to emphasize that the Ticino cantonal authorities in south eastern Switzerland have announced that as of July 1, 2016 they will start to enforce the burqa (niqab) ban in public places in the canton, including in Lugano, Locarno, Magadino, Bellinzona, Ascona and Mendrisio.
“As school holidays [in Saudi Arabia] are coming up, the embassy reminds all honorable citizens of the necessity to respect and conform to Swiss rules and regulations in order avoid all problems.”
A Swiss Muslim convert and a French-Algerian businessman are facing fines after defying the law over the weekend.