• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Swiss vote on expelling foreign criminals
SVP's campaign (poster above) initially garnered strong support, but appears to have lost some steam among voters. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Swiss vote on expelling foreign criminals

AFP · 28 Feb 2016, 13:53

Published: 28 Feb 2016 13:53 GMT+01:00

Polling comes at a time when many European countries are hardening their attitudes to migrants after more than a million arrived on the continent last year.

More than half of Swiss voters backed strengthening rules to automatically expel foreign nationals convicted of violent or sexual crimes in a referendum on the same topic six years ago.

But the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) has accused parliament of dragging its feet on writing the text into law and watering it down when it did so last March.

Known for its virulent campaigns against immigration, the European Union and Islam, the party has proposed tougher rules, calling for "real deportation of criminal foreigners".

The initiative faces stiff opposition, including from the government, parliament and all the other major political parties, who have warned it circumvents the "fundamental rules" of democracy.

If passed, it would dramatically increase the number of offences that can get foreign nationals automatically kicked out of Switzerland, including misdemeanours usually punishable with short prison sentences or fines.

It would also remove a judge's right to refrain from deportation in cases where it would cause the foreign national "serious personal hardship".

More than 50,000 people including hundreds of celebrities have signed a petition against the proposals.

- Uncertain outcome -

SVP's campaign initially garnered strong support, but appears to have lost some steam among voters.

A poll by gfs.bern earlier this month found 49 percent of those questioned opposed the text while 46 percent were in favour -- but with five percent still undecided, the vote could go either way.

Opponents warn that if the text passes, people born to foreign parents in Switzerland risk being deported to countries they have never lived in, just for petty offences.

In the 2010 plebiscite, the Swiss agreed to automatically deport foreigners found guilty of murder, rape and other serious sexual offences, violent crimes like robbery, drug trafficking and abusing social aid.

The proposal was approved by 52.9 percent of those voting. 

Parliament last year approved changes to the penal code, but also determined that judges should have the right to avoid automatic deportation in certain cases.

The initiative under scrutiny on Sunday would widen the list of offences that trigger automatic deportation.

Any foreigner found guilty of two lower-level infractions -- including fighting, money laundering, giving false testimony and indecent exposure -- in the space of 10 years would be expelled.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, the 2015 changes to the penal code would have led to the deportation of nearly 3,900 people in 2014, compared to around 500 on average.

On the basis of the measures proposed by the SVP, that figure would have been 10,200.

Parliament has to pass a law that is approved by referendum, although approval has to come in a double form -- both as an overall majority of the nationwide vote, and in a majority of Switzerland's cantons, or regions.

The Swiss will also voice their opinions on a range of other issues in the vote, including the proposed construction of a new road tunnel under the Gottard pass in the central Swiss Alps.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Escaped Swiss cow loses holiday rights
Ilana the cow spent ten days on the loose before being recaptured. Photo: Graubünden police

There will be no summer holiday for Ilana the Highland cow.

Swiss giant Nestlé bucks history with new top dog
Schneider, 50, is a German-US national. Photo: Daniel Roland/AFP

The appointment of new CEO Ulf Mark Schneider marks a new, nutrition-focused era for Nestlé.

Signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
Photo: Justice and Security Department, Basel

New signs in Basel’s red light district will show streetwalkers where they may legally tout for business.

Muslim school kids must swim to be Swiss
Swimming lessons are compulsory in Basel's education system. Photo: Daniel Orth

Two Muslim teenage girls were denied a Swiss passport because they refused to participate in school swimming lessons on religious grounds.

Opinion
Brexit voters ‘misinformed’ on Swiss relations with EU
The Swiss president meets with European leaders on the first Gotthard train. Photo: Ruben Sprich/AFP

Leave campaigners calling for Britain to be like Switzerland did not truly understand Switzerland’s relationship with the EU, one commentator tells The Local.

France demands Swiss bank UBS face fraud trial
File photo: Martin Abegglen

The bank is accused of orchestrating a vast system of tax fraud in France.

Wimbledon
Federer wins uninspired Wimbledon opener
File photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Roger Federer was well short of his best as he advanced to the second round.

Nestlé’s birthday bash ruffles festival feathers
Lausanne's Festival de la Cité has not received the same special dispensation as Nestle, despite asking. Photo: Régis Colombo/Lausanne tourism

Is Nestlé getting special treatment from local authorities?

Germans avoid plunge off Swiss mountain pass
Photo: Graubunden cantonal police

Two holidaymakers had a lucky escape when their brakes failed coming down a mountain pass.

Brexit
Swiss-EU talks ‘must’ resume this summer
Scheider-Ammann will seek talks with European Commission President Juncker. File photo: Emmanuel Dunand

Switzerland will insist it is heard in Brussels and not cast aside by last week’s Brexit vote, the Swiss president has said.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
File photo: Kochtopf
National
Anger as Swiss council plans non-pork school lunches
File photo: Jen/Flickr
Society
Geneva to get 'café fellatio' by end of year
Features
How Switzerland's scenery inspired some of the world's greatest authors
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
A guaranteed basic income: why did the Swiss say no?
Photo: Andreas Gerth/Swiss-Image.ch
Features
Switzerland’s breathtaking Unesco World Heritage sites
Photo: Nestle
Culture
Nestlé celebrates 150 years with museum openings
Photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss-image.ch
National
Report: Swiss are officially ‘good’ for the planet
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
World agog at bizarre Gotthard Base Tunnel opening
Photo: Coop
Swiss supermarkets look to scrap free plastic bags
Photo: IMD
Business & Money
Report: Swiss economy more competitive than US
Photo: Aargau police
National
Murderer escapes from Swiss psych hospital
Photo: Grande-Dixence SA/essencedesign.com
Features
8 fantastic reasons to visit French-speaking Switzerland
Photo: Terroir Fribourg
Lifestyle
Swiss village to make world’s biggest meringue
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Features
10 unspoken rules for fitting in with the Swiss
Photo: Alp Transit Gotthard
National
Gotthard base tunnel: what you need to know
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Sport
Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
Photo: Broad Bean Media
National
Basel: Muslim schoolboys must shake hands or face fine
Photo: Emmanual Dunand/AFP
Sport
Brother of Belgian bomber wins gold in Switzerland
Photo: Gstaad Tourism
National
Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
4,656
jobs available