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Swiss voters reject tough immigration proposal

Latest update : 2008-06-01

64% of Swiss voters firmly rejected a far-right referendum that would have made it harder for foreigners to become naturalised citizens. According to a 2006 census, foreign residents constitute a fifth of the Swiss population.

ZURICH, June 1 (Reuters) - Swiss voters rejected a proposal
in a referendum on Sunday to give individual communities the
authority to award Swiss passports which would have made it more
difficult for foreigners to secure citizenship.

Just under 64 percent dismissed an initiative by the Swiss
People's Party (SVP) that the naturalisation of immigrants be
decided by a popular vote in the commune where the immigrant
lives, the Swiss Federal Government said.

This procedure was banned five years ago after a number of
communities repeatedly blocked passport applications and the
supreme court judged the method discriminatory.

Only one of the 26 cantons supported the SVP, which is
backed by billionaire industrialist Christoph Blocher and has
increased its power over the last 10 years by focusing on
worries about immigration.

"The right to naturalisation has been cemented with today's
decision," the SVP said in a statement. "The negative
by-products of the mass naturalisation of poorly integrated
foreigners, (such as) violent crimes and social abuse, will
rise," the party said.



More than a fifth of Switzerland's 7.5 million residents are
foreigners, according to Federal Statistics Office 2006 data, a
higher proportion than almost any other European country and due
in part to the difficulty of becoming a naturalised citizen.

Already it is hard to gain Swiss citizenship. Candidates
must have lived in Switzerland for 12 years and pass tests on
Swiss culture and language.

The SVP, which wanted to make it even harder for foreigners
to gain citizenship, plastered the country with yellow and black
hands grabbing at Swiss passports and sent out literature
detailing various crimes committed by immigrants who had been
granted Swiss citizenship in the run up to the referendum.

"The rejection of the naturalisation initiative represents
the definitive end of the lottery for decisions on
naturalisation," the Social Democratic (SP) party said in a
statement. "(The voters) let the initiators' campaign of fear
fail," the SP said.

The SVP's latest campaign contrasts with publicity from the
tourist board, welcoming hundreds of thousands of soccer fans
who will travel in June to Switzerland and neighbouring Austria
for the Euro 2008 soccer tournament.

The SVP drew accusations of racism by rights groups and the
United Nations during last October's election campaign for its
posters showing a black sheep being kicked off a Swiss flag by
three white sheep.

Date created : 2008-06-01