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Swiss to vote again on immigration curbs

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Swiss to vote again on immigration curbs
RASA supporters deposit signatures in Bern on Tuesday. Photo: RASA
12:09 CET+01:00
Voters in Switzerland look set to go to the polls again to decide whether immigration curbs approved by the population in February 2014 should be implemented.

Backers of the RASA (Raus aus der Sackgasse or Get out of the deadlock) initiative filed 110,000 signatures with the federal chancellory in Bern on Tuesday.

The signatures were submitted in time to ensure a new vote is taken on the immigration issue before February 2017, the deadline imposed for the application of the measure against “mass immigration”, spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP).

The goal of the new initiative is to repeal changes to the constitution which require Switzerland to institute unspecified curbs on immigration following the national vote in 2014.

The curbs fly in the face of a freedom of movement of people accord Switzerland has signed with the European Union that was also approved by Swiss voters.

And the restrictions have put at risk other bilateral agreements the Swiss have with the EU, including ones granting Switzerland unfettered access to the European bloc's market.

Brussels has warned that Switzerland cannot cherrypick among the agreements.

It has said that if the country decides to end its involvement in the freedom of movement accord it will also have to give up its other agreements with the EU.

The SVP argues that Switzerland needs to have complete control over immigration and that Bern can negotiate new agreements with Brussels.

Backers of RASA say they will withdraw the new initiative if parliament approves measures that allow Switzerland to maintain its bilateral accords with the EU.

Supporters of the initiative include billionaire businessman Hansjörg Wyss, who donated 150,000 francs to the RASA committee, composed of 300 people from artistic, research, sporting and economic circles.

Former Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey is among other notables backing the committee.

RASA said it obtained 130,000 signatures in just eight months.

“This initiative sends a clear signal,” the committee said on its website.

“The people want to decide themselves if the initiative against mass immigration should be literally implemented or if the bilateral agreements with the EU take priority.”

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