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'Pay foreign convicts to quit Switzerland'

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10:38 CEST+02:00

Foreign-born offenders in Geneva will in future be offered 4,000 francs ($4,634) to leave the country, as part of a plan to reduce the burden on Switzerland's prisons.

Frustrated by seeing the same North African offenders going through the courts time and again, Geneva has responded by launching a new plan which offers offenders a chance to return to their home countries rather than languish in a Swiss prison.

The move is also aimed at reducing the significant prison bill, which amounts to approximately 450 francs ($491) a day per inmate, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported. Instead of serving a prison sentence, small crime offenders will be able to choose to return instead to their homelands.

“This is better than punishment,” Emilie Flaman, President of the Green Party, told Tages Anzeiger.

Each participating offender is allocated 4,000 francs ($4,634): 1,000 francs ($1,091) of which are to be used for the return flight and the remaining 3,000 francs ($3,272) are to be paid out upon arrival by a local NGO for an apprenticeship or training course.

“We save money, not only for prison places, but also for the special deportation flights, which cost from about 100,000 ($109,095) francs per individual,” said project co-developer Pierre Weiss, a councillor for the liberal Free Democratic Party.

In return, the offenders must provide full details on their identities including a set of fingerprints. The men will not be allowed ever to return to Switzerland.

Approximately half of the thefts in the canton of Geneva have been attributed to some 400 North African men, online new site Blick reported. This project is aimed at combating these figures, although those that have committed serious crimes may not take advantage of the offer, Weiss said.

The project costs – about 240,000 francs ($261,733) – are not to be borne by the taxpayer: instead, Geneva has decided to use funds confiscated from drug deals.

Not everyone is happy with the project. Some believe that those who steal or deal in drugs should not be rewarded in this way. Others think that the drug money should be put back into the bigger fight against drugs.

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