• Switzerland's news in English

Immigration: 'total chaos' seen if curbs backed

Jonathan Fowler/AFP · 6 Feb 2014, 11:00

Published: 06 Feb 2014 11:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The result could be close, with the latest poll indicating 43 percent back the "Stop Mass Immigration" proposal and 50 percent oppose it.
Switzerland is not in the EU but is ringed by members of the 28-nation bloc, which is its main export market.
If passed, the proposal would bind the government to renegotiate within three years a deal which gives the EU's 500 million residents equal footing on the job market in this nation of 8.1 million people.
Opponents of the plan -- the government, most political parties and the business sector -- warn that ripping up free labour market rules for EU nationals in force since 2007 would unravel related economic deals.
"I urge the Swiss to vote with their heads and not from their guts," said Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann.
The EU is already battling internal dissent over its own borderless labour market policy, which is often criticised in western Europe, and has ruled out any change in its deal with Switzerland.
"Switzerland can't just pick and choose," Viviane Reding, vice president of the EU's executive branch, told Swiss media.
She insisted free movement was part of a binding package of seven accords benefitting Switzerland and the EU alike -- some 430,000 Swiss live in EU countries, for example.
University of Geneva political scientist Pascal Sciarini said it was tough to forecast the vote result.
"If the Yes camp wins, there'll be total chaos and a huge period of uncertainty in relations with the EU," he told AFP.
The Yes coalition is unbowed, arguing that national sovereignty is at stake.
The referendum was the brainchild of the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the largest single force in parliament and known for campaigns taking aim at foreigners.
"Our initiative has only one goal: Switzerland has to be able to control the quantity and the quality of immigration again," SVP lawmaker Luzi Stamm told AFP.

"Uncontrollable immigration is always, and everywhere, a disadvantage for a wealthy country," 

'Playing with fire'

Referenda are the core of Switzerland's direct democracy, and the SVP mustered more than 135,000 signatures to force a vote.
Immigration and national identity have long been headline issues in a country with one of Europe's toughest laws on obtaining citizenship and a long tradition of drawing foreign workers into a wealthy economy with virtually full employment.
But over recent years, the proportion of foreigners has risen from around one-fifth of the population to almost a quarter.
The highest numbers of recent immigrants hailed from neighbouring Germany, Italy and France, as well as Portugal.
The proposal's supporters say the arrival of 80,000 new residents per year has been an economic and social disaster.
The campaigners allege that locals -- both Swiss and long-resident citizens of other countries -- have been undercut as EU nationals settle for jobs below their qualification level because it still means making a higher salary than at home.
Their hard-hitting billboards even blame foreigners' demand for housing for concreting over the landscape.
They also blame overpopulation for driving up rents and land prices, overburdening the health and education systems, and turning rail and road commuting into a nightmare of jam-packed trains and traffic lines.
They decline to say what they consider an acceptable level of immigration, but underline that around 40,000 immigrants entered the country each year before the financial crisis erupted in 2007.
Switzerland's business, industry, farm and hospital lobbies warn the plan would hit a swathe of key sectors relying on foreign labour and trade.
"This is playing with fire," Swiss Employers' Federation chief Valentin Vogt told AFP.
"If you have a headache, you don't operate on an artery," Vogt said.

Story continues below…

"And that's basically what it is, because nobody knows what would come out of this."
Opponents also balk at reviving bureaucratic hurdles that previously applied before they could recruit a non-resident.
Vogt said Switzerland needs a steady stream of migrants to replace retiring workers in its ageing population.

Jonathan Fowler/AFP (news@thelocal.ch )

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Immigration to Switzerland falls as emigration rises
File photo: The Local

Immigration in Switzerland has fallen considerably this year, according to official figures.

Wawrinka aces his way into Basel quarterfinals
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The home favourite returns to the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors for the first time in five years.

Illegal immigrant dies after setting himself on fire
The victim was treated at University Hospital Zurich. Photo: University Hospital Zurich

The 45-year-old Tunisian was threatened with deportation.

Swiss government rejects call for second immigration vote
Photo: Justus Blumer/Christophe G

The Swiss government has rejected a popular initiative calling for a revote on plans to limit immigration.

Bern: companies should report salary inequality by law
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Swiss government wants to force small companies to examine their rates of pay every four years.

Husband in custody after Orbe body identified
File photo: Bas Leenders

The deceased is a 55-year-old woman who lived in the house with her husband.

Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available