Mayor Georg Brunner, from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), expects local residents in the small hamlet of Schmidrüti to put up a fight to prevent the construction of the centre in a region dominated by the far-right Swiss Peoples’ Party (SVP).
“Nobody’s going to be happy,” he told newspaper Tages Anzeiger.
Local SVP president Stefan Böni believes the region’s inhabitants have reasonable grounds for resisting the new project, the newspaper reports. An asylum centre for Kosovan refugees, established at Schmidrüti 13 years ago, had negative consequences for the community, he said.
Böni recalled that the asylum seekers refused to use the military barracks they had been provided with, and some went on hunger strike, protesting against the way they were being treated.
The protests resulted in the widespread perception that the asylum seekers had behaved ungratefully, and served as a pivotal moment in turning public opinion against the Albanian Kosovan population.
The pressure on the government to find an immediate housing solution for asylum seekers is significant: only 1,200 places are available in Switzerland to house an estimated 1,600 asylum seekers, Tages Anzeiger reported on Sunday.
The Zurich cantonal government has backed the plans, particularly since it recently had to abandon a project to create a new asylum centre in Eglisau.
Each canton has a quota to fulfil regarding the number of places available to asylum seekers. The creation of a new centre would therefore relieve pressure on Zurich’s government to provide accommodation within the canton, although it is not yet clear how many people the new centre would house.
However, it remains to be seen whether the project will ever get off the ground. Various administrative hurdles need to be overcome in order to convert the missile base, with issues still to be ironed on the municipal level, as well as the cantonal and federal levels.