Police remove caravan-dwellers from Bern field
Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP · 24 Apr 2014, 23:44
Published: 24 Apr 2014 23:44 GMT+02:00
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The travellers referred to by Swiss media as “gypsies” had occupied a field in the Wankdorf district of Bern to decry the lack of venues in Switzerland to welcome people who like to move around the country.
The city of Bern ordered the evacuation of the area, which is set to be used for parking for a spring fair scheduled to start on Friday.
The Berner Zeitung newspaper reported on Wednesday that more than 120 vehicles, including caravans, carrying more than 450 people were camped on the field.
“We demand more fields for travellers in Switzerland,” said Mike Gerzner, a Swiss man in his 20s, identified as a spokesman of the Swiss caravan-dwellers association.
Gerzner vowed that the group was not going to to move from the field until it got a commitment for more places to camp, the Berner Zeitung said.
While some of the caravans were towed away, many remained despite requests to move from police, who finally gave an ultimatum around 4pm for the trespassers to leave.
The force said it conducted identity checks on 71 adults and young people in a nearby gym before they were released.
The final stages of the evacuation were continuing through the night, police said.
The campers arrived on the property on Tuesday before Bern city council agreed the following day that the area should be cleared.
National broadcaster SRF quoted a sympathizer with the group who said there are currently 45 sites in Switzerland where people who live in caravans are allowed to stay for one or two weeks at a time.
But there is a need for at least 80 such places, he said
Reto Nause, the city councillor in charge of security, said the campers needed to contact national decison-makers who are in a position to address their concerns.
“I cannot speak for the federal authorities,” Nause is quoted as saying by the Berner Zeitung.
“The city of Bern is the wrong contact.”