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Swiss city of Basel offers homeless people one way-tickets to other countries

The northern city is giving beggars a travel voucher to a European destination, provided they agree not to return to Switzerland.

Swiss city of Basel offers homeless people one way-tickets to other countries
Most Swiss cantons ban begging. Photo by Michal Cizek / AFP

Basel’s migration service offers a Rail Check, as well as a donation of 20 francs, to any beggar willing to leave the country, Swiss media reported.

This travel voucher covers a trip to any European destination by train.

For those who live too far to go by train, for instance Romania, where many beggars come from, authorities purchase an airline ticket for about 60 francs — the price for one-way flight from Basel to Bucharest.

But there is one condition attached to this free travel: “beneficiaries must agree in writing not to return to Switzerland. If they are found here again, they risk expulsion from our country”, said Toprak Yergu, a spokesperson for Basel’s Department of Justice.

Basel’s solution seems more innovative than the one practiced by Geneva authorities, who fined a beggar 500 francs for breaking the canton’s anti-begging law, and then detaining her when she couldn’t pay.

While this incident dates back to 2014, it made news again in January 2021, when the European Court of Human Rights found the penalties against the woman to be out of proportion.

The court ruled that the Romanian woman had “the right, which is inherent in human dignity, to express her distress and try to meet her needs by begging.

Geneva had violated article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the protection of private and family life, the court said, ordering the canton to pay the woman 922 euros in moral damages. 

READ MORE: Switzerland condemned by rights court over fine for beggar

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For members


Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.