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IMMIGRATION

Right-wing Swiss party demands quotas on migration from EU

During its general assembly held on Saturday, delegates from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) reiterated their support for the so-called "limitation initiative", which calls for the Swiss government to impose quotas on migration from the EU.

Right-wing Swiss party demands quotas on migration from EU
FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The limitation initiative, which will be voted nationwide on May 14th, was created by the SVP and the Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (ASIN), and aims to implement quotas on EU immigrants — a measure accepted in a 2014 referendum.

It is asking the authorities to negotiate with Brussels the end of the free movement agreement, which allows EU nationals to live and work in Switzerland. 

“I see migration as the biggest driver of wasted resources, and therefore the main driver of CO2 emissions,” the outgoing SVP / UDC president Albert Rösti told the 365 delegates at the assembly.

About 1.4 million citizens of EU member states currently work in Switzerland, including 325,000 cross-border workers who commute each day to their Swiss jobs

If the initiative passes, Swiss authorities would have one year to negotiate an end to its agreement with Brussels.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Switzerland's spring referendums

Rösti said that the free-movement clause has not been beneficial for Switzerland — in particular due to the pressure on employment and wages, the costs of social assistance linked to the long-term unemployment of migrants, as well as high rents.

“We do not want a Switzerland with 10 million inhabitants,” he added.

The party also wants Switzerland to manage its immigration policy independently, without the interference of the EU. “We don't have to receive orders from Brussels”, SVP deputy Ueli Maurer told the delegates.

In the absence of a solution, the government should cancel the agreement, even at the risk of terminating other bilateral treaties it signed with the EU, the SVP said.

Switzerland has over 100 agreements with its European neighbours, regulating cooperation in trade, taxation, air and land transport, scientific research, and other areas.

The government, as well as major Swiss parties, are against the limitation initiative, arguing that such a move would be detrimental to Switzerland’s economy and its relations with Brussels. 

The SVP has initiated a number of controversial referendums over the years, opposing immigration as well as close ties with the EU.

READ MORE: How do the Swiss feel about freedom of movement with the EU?

 

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IMMIGRATION

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”.

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