The city of Basel in Switzerland has offered its homeless community a free one-way ticket to any other European destination if they agree to sign a contract vowing never to return.
Toprak Yergu, a Basel Department of Justice spokesperson, told local newspaper 20 Minutes that homeless individuals in the city can request a travel voucher and 20 Swiss francs (USD$21.90). In return, the individuals must sign a contract vowing not to return to the country for a specified period of time.
The official told the outlet any individuals caught violating the contract could face deportation.
“Beneficiaries must undertake in writing not to return to Switzerland—at least for a certain period of time. If they are checked again, they risk expulsion from our country,” Yergu said.
Thirty-one homeless individuals have taken the city’s offer, including 14 from Romania and seven from Germany, according to Le News, an English-language newspaper published in Switzerland.
Critics have reportedly called the offer “street cleansing.”
Switzerland, a Central European country, home to mountains, lakes and villages, has demonstrated a zero-tolerance approach to homelessness.
In January 2014, officials in Geneva placed a female homeless individual in custody after she failed to pay a 500CHF—USD$547—fine for begging on the streets. The European Court of Human Rights overturned the city’s decision and ruled that their treatment of the homeless woman was inconsistent with the goal of protecting the rights of the public.
The city was ordered to pay the woman damages totaling 922 Euros—USD$1108, according to Le News.
In September 2016, the Swiss canton of Vaud government, which is composed of 10 districts with Lausanne as its capital city, passed a law banning begging in the area.
Human rights groups and left leaning political organizations sought to overturn the ban in Vaud’s constitutional court, but a majority of the judges rejected their effort. The groups then took their case to the country’s highest court, the Federal Tribunal, where their effort was rejected again, Le News reported.
Critics of the ban argue that the law excludes and criticizes individuals with little or no wealth. On the other hand, proponents have called the measure necessary to protect citizens from organized criminal groups that exploit the homeless community.
In 2018, the Guardian investigation revealed that councils in the U.K. had engaged in similar conduct by giving thousands of homeless individuals a one-way travel ticket to leave some locations over the span of four years.
Newsweek reached out to the Switzerland Federal Department of Foreign Affairs for comment. This story will be updated with any response.