Swiss village in uproar over asylum centre
Local officials from Bettwil, in northern Switzerland, have collected almost 10,000 signatures against federal plans to build a refugee centre in the village of 560 inhabitants.
Bettwil has been mobilizing for weeks against federal plans to accommodate up to 100 asylum seekers in a former military barracks in the village, located in the canton of Aargau.
The federal government plans to host between 80 and 100 refugees for a period not exceeding six months.
In the village, cars carry protest stickers and streets are covered with posters that read: “Yes to solidarity, no to the asylum centre”, or “Massive asylum centre, no,” the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports.
Before Christmas, both the mayor and a committee representing Bettwil citizens travelled to Aargau to bring the signatures and convey their opposition to the government’s plan.
According to Jacqueline Wiederkehr, one of the members of the committee, the Federal Council failed to give the people of Bettwil a chance to voice their opinion prior to the decision.
The mayor of the remote village, Wolfgang Schibler, went further, saying cantonal and federal authorities had acted with “arrogance.”
Schibler has denied accusations of xenophobia, and is seeking to distance himself from extreme right-wing groups supporting his cause.
According to Weiderkehr, the asylum centre will bring crime to a village that boasts a single restaurant and a shop.
“We have zero criminality now, but if, all of the sudden we get 100 young North Africans with nothing to do, criminality will inevitably rise,” she said.
Protesters have decided to lie low until the next meeting with federal and cantonal authorities, set to take place on January 5th.
Between January and November this year, more than 20,000 people have requested asylum in Switzerland, 41.5 percent more than the same period in 2010.
The country is suffering from a shortage of accommodation for asylum seekers. In recent weeks, the Swiss press has reported that several refugees have been forced to sleep on the street due to a lack of beds in official centres.