Swiss expats threatened by ‘absurd’ proposal

Swiss expats threatened by ‘absurd’ proposal
Ecopop says overpopulation is threatening the environment. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
A proposal to limit population growth in Switzerland could mean Swiss expats cannot return to their native country, says an organization representing citizens living abroad.

The Organization of Swiss Abroad (ASO) feels the initiative, which calls for immigration to Switzerland to be annually capped at 0.2 percent of the population, could result in an “absurd” situation for Swiss expats.

The initiative from environmental group Ecopop, to be decided by referendum on November 30th, takes no exceptions into account, meaning that Swiss citizens abroad wanting to return to Switzerland could be subject to the same quotas as foreigners.

If the proposal is accepted and applied to the letter, this could prevent Swiss expats from returning home.

Speaking to news agency ATS, the co-director of ASO, Ariane Rustichelli, said that Swiss nationals living abroad are often forgotten during Switzerland’s frequent debates over population growth.

That such a proposal could be launched is “symptomatic of a particular mindset: we forget that among migrants, there are many Swiss,” she said.

The number of Swiss living abroad amounts to around ten percent of the Swiss population.

“That’s not nothing,” Rustichelli told ATS.

Ecopop, which feels overpopulation is putting too much pressure on natural resources, says ASO’s objections are unfounded, as the right to return to the country is guaranteed by the Swiss constitution.

The number of Swiss wanting to return home can be included within the immigration limits, said Andreas Thommen, director of Ecopop’s committee.

“The best thing would be to deduct the number of Swiss who wish to return from the 0.2 percent and to calculate the number of foreigners who can enter Switzerland based on what remains,” he told ATS.

But Thommen conceded that a mass return of Swiss expats could cause problems.

“If they all come back we won’t have any space left," he said.

"There’s hardly enough available housing as it is.”

The initiative will be put to the vote in November, ten months after the country voted to bring in quotas on the number of EU immigrants to Switzerland.

As yet the federal government hasn’t submitted a bill detailing what level of quotas will be imposed.  

A recent government report stated that immigration to Switzerland stood at 3.4 percent of the population in 2013.

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