With October's general election drawing near, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has taken out ads with the headlines: “Kosovar slashes Swiss man" and “Kosovar kills head of social services.”
The headlines relate to two recent news stories and are accompanied by a reproduction of the party's 'Stop mass immigration' campaign poster, which shows several sets of feet trampling on the Swiss flag.
Critics accuse the SVP of trying to get votes by defaming Kosovars as a group.
“Switzerland has elections coming up in October and it's just this one subject all the time," Social Democrat politician Ylfete Fanaj told The Local.
"The SVP are playing on the emotions of the Swiss people with their anti-foreigner campaigns.”
The 29-year-old Fanaj was born in Kosovo but has lived in Switzerland since 1991 and is now a Swiss citizen. A member of the Canton Lucerne parliament, she is also president of Secondos Plus, a pro-immigration lobby group.
Fanaj said Kosovars in Switzerland were appalled by the killings referred to in the SVP campaign. In the first case, a Swiss mountain wrestler had his throat slit, while the second headline relates to a man who first shot his wife before murdering the head of the local social services.
“Both of these recent cases were horrible and tragic. The Kosovar people who live and are integrated in Switzerland are really shocked. They are talking a lot about this topic at the moment,” she said.
The SVP was forced to backtrack when newspapers refused to publish a first draft of the ads, which used the misleading headline: "Kosovars slash Swiss man". The party eventually agreed to alter the ad despite arguing that there were two Kosovars at the scene of the crime, even if only one used a knife.
Fanaj, a qualified social worker, said it was crucial that Switzerland take strong measures to better integrate its immigrant communities.
“These crimes were committed by men who are not well integrated, especially in work, have a low level education and are frustrated. This is a problem that Switzerland should help take care of,” she told The Local.
Switzerland is home to around 200,000 people with roots in the former Yugoslavia, making them the third largest immigrant group behind Italians and Germans.