Swiss Referendum Backs Expelling Convicted Foreigners

Catherine Bosley and Anne Richardson, Reuters, November 28, 2010

A majority of Swiss voted in a referendum on Sunday to ease the expulsion of foreigners convicted of serious crimes such as murder, the latest sign of growing hostility to immigration in the Alpine state.

Some 53 percent of voters accepted a proposal to deport automatically foreigners convicted of crimes including rape or trafficking in drugs or people, according to returns published by Swiss television.

A committee will draw up a draft law that minimizes any conflict with Switzerland’s international obligations, the government said. The law will then be voted on by parliament.

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The expulsion initiative was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has mined increasing fear about immigration in recent years to become the country’s biggest political movement.

Posters for the SVP’s proposal show a group of white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag. They first ran when the SVP was collecting signatures for the referendum.

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VIOLATION OF ANTI-BIAS TREATIES?

Critics have said the SVP’s proposal could contravene international anti-discrimination treaties and the free movement of peoples under European Union law. Switzerland is outside the EU, but has accepted the bloc’s code allowing EU citizens to take up residence without special permission.

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Swiss official figures show that foreigners–who make up more than a fifth of Switzerland’s population of 7.7 million–are disproportionately charged with crimes.

Turnout was 53 percent, above the usual 40 percent in Swiss referendums, Swiss television reported.

Last year the Swiss endorsed a ban on construction of new minarets, drawing international condemnation.

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