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'Switzerland must shut itself off with barbed wire'

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'Switzerland must shut itself off with barbed wire'
A man walks with his son in the Moria detention centre on the Greek Island of Lesbos in April. Photo: AFP
11:13 CEST+02:00
Switzerland's asylum policy is failing and desperate steps must be taken. That's the message of Andreas Glarner, the spokesperson for asylum policy for the Swiss People's Party (SVP).

Andreas Glarner is upbeat.

As president of the municipality of Oberwil-Lieli in the canton of Aargau, he has just seen local voters give their thumbs up to a budgetary clause that will see local authorities pay money to the canton rather than house asylum seekers.

If the plan gets the town council's rubber stamp, the wealthy municipality will pay 290,000 Swiss francs a year instead of taking in its designated quota of ten asylum seekers.  

The plan has created bitter divisions within the local community, but Glarner says other towns should follow suit. Indeed, he believes it is “civil duty” of Swiss citizens to “resist” the dictates of the Swiss capital on asylum.

“Switzerland must close all of its green borders with barbed wire,” the SVP MP told national daily the Tages Anzeiger.

“There is going to an invasion of asylum seekers…The only way into Europe is via Italy. Italy is not a desired destination. The asylum seekers are coming to Switzerland."

Glarner also wants to see a systematic reintroduction of border controls, arguing these are “extremely effective” in limiting migration.

In Glarner's opinion, only people from Syria should qualify as legitimate asylum seekers at present, while just 12 percent of people seeking refugee in Switzerland are legitimate cases.

This is why the politician plans to fight hard in the lead-up to a June 5th referendum which will see Swiss voters decide whether to back a new asylum law – one the government hopes will speed up the asylum process and lead to financial savings in the longer term.

A test of the new system in Zurich saw voluntary repatriations rise three fold while the number of appeals launched by asylum seekers was also down substantially.

While the new policy might be assumed to appeal to the right-wing SVP, the party is concerned it will make Switzerland a more attractive destination for asylum seekers.

Among the sticking points for the party is the boosting of capacity for asylum seekers from 1,400 to 5,000 places. The SVP is also against the idea of a plan to provide legal advice to people seeking asylum.

Speaking to the Tages Anzeiger, Glarner criticized the lawyers involved in the Zurich trial as “left-wing”.

“Of course they want to pursue as many cases as possible,” he told the newspaper.

Glarner is no stranger to controversy. His 2008 campaign for the national parliament featured posters with slogans such as “Aarau or Ankara?” and “Baden or Baghdad?”, which contained an image of a mosque.

Last month, the SVP said it would not be investing in a poster campaign for the June 5th referendum after its posters for the last popular vote were roundly attacked by critics.

Explaining the decision not to deliver a nationwide paid-for poster campaign, Glarner told SonntagsBlick: “The people must know themselves what asylum policy they want,” he said.

“Does the electorate believe the authorities' propaganda when they claim that free lawyers will speed up procedures? The SVP is no longer willing to make all the effort, as was the case for the vote on the [foreign criminals] project implementation,” he said.

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