Right-wing MP calls for ban on Muslim refugees

The politician behind the successful campaign to prohibit the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is now calling for a ban on certain Muslim refugees in the country following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France.

Right-wing MP calls for ban on Muslim refugees
Right-wing Walter Wobmann: faces opposition for his proposal. Photo: SVP

Walter Wobmann, Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP from Solothurn, is demanding that Muslim asylum seekers from Iraq and Syria be denied entry into Switzerland, according to an online report from Blick.

Wobmann believes that it is only a matter of time before the Swiss will be faced with an attack from Muslim extremists, although his views have been sharply criticized by other politicians.

This position is “unacceptable”, said Carlo Sommaruga, federal MP from Geneva and a member of the socialist party.

“It’s discriminatory, resolves nothing and contributes to an atmosphere of hate and witch hunting,” Martine Brunschwig Graf, head of the federal commission against racism, is quoted as saying by the Tribune de Genève.

Brunschwig Graf, former president of the Geneva cantonal government, warned against such “mixed-up” reactions following the killings of staff at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday that left 12 people dead.

French police on Friday were tracking two Muslim extremist suspects in connection with the massacre, apparently motivated by the magazine’s lampooning of Muslim fundamentalism.

Wobmann accused the Swiss government of “naivety” in its approach toward Muslim extremists and criticized in particular transport and environment minister Doris Leuthard for a comment she made on Twitter.

Leuthard condemned the Paris attack but then she went on to say: “Satire is not a free pass,” in an apparent reference to Charlie Hebdo.

The cabinet minister later tried to backtrack with a further tweet, suggesting there was a “misunderstanding” about what she was trying to say.

“I’m shocked by the attack,” she said, adding “press freedom is a fundamental right! Nothing justifies the attack.”


Wobmann said radical Islam was a danger for a free Switzerland and the spread of Islamism must be combatted, according to the Blick report.

He said there was a danger that the most dangerous terrorists could smuggle themselves into the country through requests for asylum.

But members of his own party distanced themselves from Wobmann’s call for a specific ban on certain asylum seekers.

“We don’t need to fall into this debate without end,” said Claude-Alain Voiblet, an SVP MP from the canton of Vaud said.

Voiblet said Switzerland is not an “island of security” and should be prepared for similar attacks as the one in Paris but through a “very precise analysis of the situation”.

Wobmann's proposal also comes at a time when other politicians are seeking support to admit 100,000 refugees into Switzerland from war-torn Syria.

Meanwhile, Muslim officials in Switzerland said they were shocked by what happened in Paris and they issued statements condemning the attack.

“It’s an abominable crime that stains with blood all of France and puts families in mourning by putting democracy and freedom in danger,” Hafid Ouardiri, former spokesman for the Geneva mosque told The Tribune de Genève.

Hasni Abidi, director of the Geneva-based centre for studies and research into the Arabic and Mediterranean world, made similar comments to the newspaper.

“It’s an unthinkable act, the determination of the culprits and their wish to kill are awful,” he said.

“They want to sow terror, shut up those who are upsetting and divide the French.”

Abidi had earlier criticized Charlkie Hebdo for its caricatures of Muhammed published in 2006 but he said the killers should “certainly” punished before stigmatizing and lumping together all Muslims.

Nicolas Blancho, head of the Swiss Islamic Council, said in at statement that he was “shocked by this brutal attack”.

The council said it understood the discontent spread by the “repeated provocations” of Charlie Hebdo but that this “does not justify the use of violence”.

The council said “rigid security measures must not replace social coexistence in mutual tolerance, far from discrimination and targeted provocation”.

Follow the latest developments here as police in French track two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack.



How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.