According to local paper the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, in 2005 the Halili family received huge support from the village of Bubendorf, in the canton of Basel-Country, when the authorities were considering sending them back to Kosovo .
As a result of that support, they were granted residency in Bubendorf in 2006.
But on May 18th this year the family found that support had waned, as their application for citizenship was denied by a resident-led committee in the village.
The family had met the formal requirements for naturalization and had proved that they knew the customs and geography of the region, reported the paper.
All four of them speak German, one local resident confirmed.
Nevertheless, some members of the committee judged that the family were not Swiss enough.
Among the complaints against them was the fact that they often wore sweatpants in the village rather than jeans.
Another was that they did not greet people in passing.
“The arguments against the naturalization were purely emotional,” local resident and president of the committee Roger Frey told the paper.
The decision has surprised many commentators.
Speaking to Le Matin, Florian Pariset, administrator of naturalisation-Switzerland.ch, said: “When I was preparing to obtain citizenship, I was more worried about the history of William Tell than about my clothes.”
“At no moment did I think ‘I hope no one sees me in jogging bottoms’.”
According to the naturalization rules in the canton of Basel-Country, those seeking citizenship must be able to speak German to B1 level and be integrated in Swiss and local customs.
While the formal requirements are verified by the canton, which also conducts the candidate’s personal interview, the mayor or council of the commune in question “leads the integration discussion” on the applicant and votes in an open ballot.
“Negative decisions must be justified,” say the rules.
According to the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, the refusal of a citizenship application is very rare in Basel-Country.
Contacted by The Local, the Basel-Country and Bubendorf authorities were unavailable for comment.
A spokesperson for the Swiss federal migration office (SEM) told The Local it was not their place to comment.
“As part of the process of regular naturalization Swiss citizenship is acquired by naturalization in a canton and commune. In other words, the decision-making power belongs primarily to the aforementioned authorities,” said the spokesperson, adding, however, that the SEM does have a right of veto.
“Even if the whole facts in the case were known to us, it is not for the SEM to comment on the decision of a canton or commune.”