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IMMIGRATION

Swiss ecologists seek to curb immigration

A group of Swiss environmentalists on Friday submitted a bill to the government aimed at reining in immigration in the name of curbing population growth and protecting the environment.

Swiss ecologists seek to curb immigration
Ecopop says Switzerland needs to keep a lid on population growth. Here, crowds gather for the 2010 Lauberhorn downhill race (Photo: Christian Cueni).

The Ecology and Population (Ecopop) group first circulated a petition that garnered 120,700 certified signatures, thus easily passing the 100,000-threshold needed for the proposed law to be put to a referendum.

If Ecopop's initiative clears other administrative and legal hurdles, it will be put to a national referendum, likely in 2015.

The group, which claims to be opposed to all forms of xenophobia and racism, insists Switzerland must limit immigration to avoid urbanization and to preserve its agricultural land and breathtaking nature.

Using scientific arguments, Ecopop is meanwhile likely to alienate its usual green bedfellows on the left and could instead seduce the anti-immigration populist right, political analysts said.

Ecopop, which bases its ideas heavily on the theories of US biologist Paul Ehrlich, famous for his controversial 1968 book "The Population Bomb", wants the Swiss government to commit to keeping population growth linked to migration below 0.2 percent annually.

This, it says, is "a level that is compatible with the sustainable preservation of natural resources."

"Switzerland currently has one of the densest populations on the planet, with 480 inhabitants per square kilometre in 'Mittelland'," or central Switzerland, Ecopop leader Andreas Thommen told AFP, insisting "this development is not at all sustainable in the long-term."

Switzerland, a country of some eight million people, counted 1.8 million foreigners at the end of August, which is 3 percent more than a year earlier, according to official statistics.

Ecopop blames a 2007 change in law making it easier for European Union citizens to settle in the country — 1.77 million of Switzerland's foreign residents are from the bloc, with Italians, Germans and Portugese citizens accounting for the greatest numbers.

Etienne Piguet, a demography expert at Switzerland's Neuchâtel University, told AFP the country had indeed experienced "extraordinarily strong immigration in recent years."

But while Switzerland had faced some of the ecological problems brought up by Ecopop, he warned against "directly linking population numbers (and immigration) with such problems".

According to an online poll carried out recently by daily 20Minuten of 7,653 Internet users, 75 percent of Swiss voters support the initiative while 20 percent are opposed and five percent undecided.

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SPORT

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.

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