First they banned mosque minarets. Now, the Swiss are tightening their laws on foreign lawbreakers and freeloaders. Convicted criminals will have to leave. But even relatively minor offenses like breaking and entering or welfare fraud will suffice to forfeit a residence visa.
CS MONITOR Swiss voters have agreed to expel foreigners convicted of crimes ranging from murder to welfare fraud, without appeal, in the latest example of a sweeping set of popular antiforeigner measures around Europe.
Some 53 percent of Swiss voted for a “Deportation Initiative” brought by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) a year after it engineered an initiative banning the building of minarets. Senior European Union officials decried a new “populist surge” on the continent.
Swiss voters were stirred by pro-deportation posters showing a white sheep kicking a black sheep off the map of Switzerland. The vote is a “first step … towards greater security,” SVP leaders said in a statement. The party appears to be in a strong position ahead of elections in 2011. The vote to deport came over and against the views of many elected Swiss politicians, who seemed unable to rally against it.
The Deportation Initiative requires local judges to automatically deport persons of foreign origin whether or not they were born in Switzerland – and deportations apply to major crimes as well as lesser crimes, such as drug trafficking or fraudulent acceptance of unemployment benefits. The Swiss far-right, however, appealed to a public feeling of insecurity, the loss of traditional Swiss culture, and the payout of generous welfare benefits to immigrants.
The European far right has been changing the political landscape with a strategy that effectively leaps over old taboos against singling out foreigners – and portrays political elites as overly tolerant and out-of-touch. New anti-immigrants “movements” in the Netherlands by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, and in Denmark, Austria, and Sweden, among others, have made substantial inroads.
THE LOCAL (H/T General Ze) Increased information sharing between social services and immigration authorities in some Swiss cantons is leading to an increase in deportations, even in cases where no crime has been committed. Cross-checks in their immigration services are designed to catch foreigners on long-term social benefits and deport them, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reports.
Since the Immigration Act was passed in 2008, social services are obliged to share with immigration authorities the names of foreign nationals who are receiving benefits. Immigration law expert Marc Spescha cited a tougher political climate as a primary cause for the spike in deportations:
The Zurich-based newspaper reported on the case of a Turkish woman who moved to Switzerland in 2006 when she married a Turkish man already resident in the country. The woman was beaten by her husband for several years and left him shortly after the birth of their daughter in 2010. After their divorce came through, immigration authorities in Zurich decided to deport both woman and child since they were living solely on welfare benefits.