International marriages dominate in Switzerland

Fewer than half the weddings that took place in Switzerland last year were between two native Swiss people.

International marriages dominate in Switzerland
File photo: maximka87/Depositphotos
According to recent figures published by the Swiss statistics office, in only 47 percent of weddings held in 2016 were both partners Swiss. 
In 36 percent of cases one half of the couple was non-Swiss, while 16 percent of weddings were between two foreigners.
Around a fifth of weddings were between a Swiss man and a foreign woman, while a sixth were between a Swiss woman and a foreign man. 
The stats are a reflection of the international nature of a country where some two million residents – a quarter of its population – do not hold a Swiss passport. 
The analysis, first picked up by daily 20 Minuten, is even more revealing when broken down per canton. 
In Geneva – where 40 percent of the population is foreign – 76 percent of weddings in 2016 involved at least one foreigner, with only 24 percent being between two Swiss citizens. 
In the canton of Vaud, where 33 percent of the population is foreign, 66 percent of couples tying the knot were at least one half foreign. That figure rose to nearly 70 percent in Basel-City. 
Though immigration has been a bone of contention in Switzerland in recent years, the number of foreigners in the country continues to rise. 
The biggest foreign populations are Italians, Germans, Portuguese and French. 
The economic hubs of Zurich, Geneva and Vaud (including Lausanne) have the highest numbers of foreigners. 


Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse

Minors and adults housed in Swiss asylum centres have faced serious abuses at the hands of security staff, including beatings and chokeholds, Amnesty International warned Wednesday.

Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse
An asylum centre in the Alpine village of Realp, Central Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a report, the rights organisation’s Swiss chapter detailed “alarming abuse” in the country’s federal asylum centres, and called for urgent government action to address the problem.

The report documents a range of abuses by staff of the private security companies Securitas and Protectas, which had been contracted by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Amnesty said it had spoken with 14 asylum seekers, including two minors, who reported having faced abuse from the security officers between January 2020 and April 2021, along with 18 current and former security agents and other witnesses.

The asylum seekers described being beaten and physically restrained to the point where they could not breathe or fainted.

Some also complained about trouble breathing after being doused with pepper spray, and being locked in a metal container in freezing temperatures.

The report found that six of the alleged victims had to be hospitalised, while two said they had been denied the medical assistance they had requested.

“In addition to complaints about physical pain, mistreatment and punitive treatment, these people also voiced concerns about (security staff’s) hostility, prejudice and racism towards the residents,” said Alice Giraudel, a lawyer with Amnesty’s Swiss branch.

Such attitudes had seemed to target people of North African origin in particular, she said. Some of the abuse cases, Amnesty said, “could amount to torture”, and would thus violate Switzerland’s obligations under international law.

In a media statement, the SEM said it took the criticism “very seriously”, but rejected the suggestion that abuses were taking place in a systematic manner in federal asylum centres.

It stressed that there was no acceptance for “disproportionate constraint” of asylum seekers, and vowed to “sanction all improper behaviour.”

Giraudel hailed that the SEM had recently announced it would open an external probe into isolated abuse allegations.

But, she insisted, the situation was alarming and required the government to stop looking at allegations of abuse as the work of “a few bad apples”.