Survey: immigrants in Switzerland are happy to be here

More than a third of immigrants living in Switzerland say they have experienced discrimination, but most feel their lives have improved here, according to a new survey.

Survey: immigrants in Switzerland are happy to be here
Photo: rawpixel/Depositphotos
On the Move, a nationwide survey on immigration, is due to be published next year but initial results were revealed by Blick on Monday as part of the paper’s week-long focus on foreigners in Switzerland. 
Led by the universities of Neuchâtel and Geneva, the survey asked 6,000 immigrants of 11 nationalities (from across Europe, North and South America, India and West Africa) how they felt about living in Switzerland.
Some 35 percent said they had experienced discrimination here, not always because of their status as a foreigner but also due to their gender, race and age. 
Nevertheless, the vast majority (90 percent) said they were satisfied or very satisfied that they came here, according to Blick. 
Some 70 percent of those questioned said coming to Switzerland had been a professional advantage and they were in a better situation than in their home country. 
The figure was higher (75 percent) for people from the southern European countries Portugal, Italy and Spain, but less pronounced for British people and those from North and South America. 
Level of satisfaction (improved/stayed the same/reduced) after emigrating. Source: On the Move/NCCR
Most immigrants (62 percent) said they came to Switzerland for professional reasons, with 38 percent saying it was to change their lifestyle or have new experiences. Twenty-nine percent cited family reasons and eight percent education. 
But the stats varied widely depending on the country of origin, with 65 percent of Brits saying they came here for professional reasons compared with only around 20 percent of West Africans and South Americans.
The survey also questioned immigrants about their feelings towards Switzerland and their home countries. 
Despite living in the alpine country, over half (52 percent) said they still felt a strong attachment to their home country. 
Two notable exceptions were the French and the South Americans, a majority of whom said they felt a stronger attachment to Switzerland than to their home country.
The Portuguese, Austrians and Germans felt least attached to Switzerland, at 30 percent.
Speaking to Blick, researcher Philippe Wanner said the strength of feeling towards Switzerland depended on how the immigrant viewed their move – for example, if migration is considered a professional opportunity, the feeling of connection to the adopted country is stronger. 
That explains why the French, who often come to Switzerland because they are dissatisfied with France, feel a strong attachment to their adopted country while the Portuguese, who usually come out of necessity, do not. 
“The degree of affinity with Switzerland does not say anything about the level of integration of migrants,” he stressed.
Just under half of those questioned said they wanted to become Swiss, though the results varied considerably depending on where the immigrant was from. 
West Africans and South Americans were more likely to want to pursue Swiss citizenship (69 percent and 62 percent respectively). At the other end of the scale a majority of Austrians and Portuguese said they did not want to become Swiss. The Austrian result could be partly explained by the fact that Austria does not allow double nationality. 
Among those who said they wanted to become Swiss, 26 percent said it was because they wanted to vote, 25 percent because they felt attached to Switzerland, while 22 percent cited practical reasons.
Introducing its series of articles on foreigners in Switzerland, Blick editor Andreas Dietrich said “we should not forget the contribution that foreigners make” to the country. 
“There are Swiss people who would prefer to live without foreigners,” he added. “Such a Switzerland has never existed and thankfully will never exist. That would be a country where we would feel alien.”


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”.