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Swiss union starts pro-immigrant campaign

30 Aug 2011, 11:30

Published: 30 Aug 2011 12:17 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Aug 2011 11:30 GMT+02:00

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Swiss trade union Unia has launched a campaign against xenophobia as it seeks to counteract what it describes as the “current climate of exclusion in Switzerland”.

Unia said the goal of the “Without us – no Switzerland“ campaign is to demonstrate the importance of having foreigners living in Switzerland.

The union, the largest trade group in Switzerland, said it wants to give a voice to people who have had enough of “smear campaigns“.

Unia said on Monday that without its immigrant workforce Switzerland would have fewer building workers, fewer footballers, a shortage of doctors, fewer care assistants and limited scientific research. Also, there would be a major dip in the country's famed chocolate production since more than 60 percent of chocolate factory workers do not hold Swiss passports.

Instead of receiving recognition for their contribution, Switzerland’s immigrant population often encounter discrimination and ostracism, Unia said.

Unia’s campaign is mainly targeted at the far-right SVP (Swiss People’s Party), who are currently running a prominent anti-immigration election campaign.

For years, right-wing populist groups have been agitating against migrants, stirring up fear and xenophobia in the general population and poisoning the societal climate with terms like 'mass immigration'," Unia chief Rita Schiavi said in a statement.

The time has now come to actively oppose anti-foreigner sentiment in Switzerland, according to the union.

“How does it feel as a foreign tourist to see a placard on arrival in the train station suggesting that foreigners are threatening Switzerland like an army?" Schiavi asked at a press conference in Bern on Monday.

"And how must one feel as a worker without a Swiss passport to be constantly confronted with the accusation of being a criminal despite working day in and day out for the good of Switzerland?“ she added.

Compared to other European countries, Switzerland has one of the highest foreigner-to-total-population ratios: 21.9 percent at the last census in 2005, rising to 37.8 percent in Canton Geneva.

The Swiss economy and labour market depend heavily on a migrant workforce, with Italians making up the biggest migrant group followed by citizens of the former Yugoslavia and Portuguese.

In the coming months, Unia plans to distribute postcards and flags, which are available to order free via their campaign website.

Unia will conclude their campaign on December 17th and 18th with an International Immigrant Day.

Campaign website: www.ohne-uns-keine.ch

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