After the article on the Great Replacement in Belgium, I present you the following translation of an article by Polémia on the situation in Switzerland. The Swiss situation is unique, if only because of the country’s objective excellence and exceptional quality of life, and the extraordinary practice of direct democracy. Thus we have the rather rare situation of citizens actually being allowed to vote on whether and in what conditions new people should be allowed into their country.
Make no mistake: the scale of demographic change is also tremendous in Switzerland, but mainly because of European immigration and even Europeans find it very difficult to accede to Swiss nationality (there is no birthright citizenship). Thus Switzerland provides a model how people might preserve a nice country in the future: a highly-selective, citizenist little republic founded on gentrified democratic localism.
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Switzerland has experienced very significant immigration over the past decades. This immigration is a source of fears or even rejection on the part of a portion of the Swiss people. These fears concern basically two issues: competition on the labor market by Europeans and the challenge to the [Swiss] cultural model posed by non-Europeans; all the more so in that, recently, the integration of the non-European population is failing to be realized.
In the face of this, the Swiss authorities’ responses oscillate between openness and firmness. A firmness which is occasionally demanded by the people in the form of the referenda which are regularly organized in Switzerland. Selective immigration is not an empty slogan in this country, even if a part of the political opposition would like the government to go much further on this issue.
Very significant migration flows
Since the Second World War, Switzerland has experienced two significant waves of immigration. The first coincided with the industrial growth of the 50s and 60s. The second began in 1975 and has continued ever since.
After the Second World War, the Swiss government granted many residence permits to mostly European workers in a context of industrial recovery. Immigration was then suddenly stopped with the repatriation of almost 300,000 foreign workers during the economic crisis caused by the first oil shock of 1973. Every year since then, Switzerland has welcomed a rising and significant number of foreigners, in proportion to its population.
Whereas 92,000 immigrants permanently moved to the country in 1981, they were 146,000 in 2018. Net migration (immigrants minus emigrants) has always been positive for the 1962-2017 period. On average 163,000 more people entered the country every year than left during this period. . . .
A growing immigrant population
The foreign population is constantly increasing in Switzerland. It rose from 14% of the total population in 1980 to 25% today. The Swiss Confederation is among the countries with the highest proportion of residents born abroad.
Whereas the country had 285,000 resident foreigners in 1951, there are now 2.1 million. The country’s population meanwhile numbers 8.5 million.
The population of immigrant origin (foreigners born abroad, naturalized citizens born in Switzerland, or naturalized citizens and foreigners born in Switzerland with at least one parent born abroad) was estimated in 2017 to make up 37% of the population.
Among the resident non-European population, Asians (165,000), Africans (109,000) and Turks (67,000) form the largest contingents. According the Pew Research Center, around 6% of the population is Muslim, around 400,000 people. According to Pew’s forecasts, the Muslim population could in 2050 make up between 8% and 12% of the Swiss population.
Competition on the labor market between foreigners and citizens as well as the scale immigration have been criticized both with regard to European and non-European immigration. Several agreements on the free movement of EU citizens have been signed between Bern and the European Union since 2000, but they remain contested, in particular by the SVP (Swiss People’s Party). This party has, for many years, sought to annul these agreements. This has raised concerns among people living across the Swiss border, notably many Frenchmen.
While non-European immigration concerns only a minority of the population in Switzerland, several warning signs are showing that integration is proving difficult or even a failure for a portion of immigrants.
A study by the Zurich university of sciences came to the conclusion that 21% of young Muslims living in Switzerland consider that sharia law is superior to Swiss law.
At the extreme of radicalization, a Swiss central Islamic committee has been established with some 3,500 members. The organization has been accused of encouraging its members to engage in polygamy and female genital mutilation. Its members are also being sued for supporting Al Qaeda.
Islamic proselytism has occasionally occurred in Swiss schools. Thus in Winterthur, teachers have complained that Muslim students are encouraging non-Muslims to fast during ramadan.
As in other European countries, the Gulf monarchies have been accused of flooding Islamic cultural centers with money. One of the authors of Qatar Papers [a book detailing Qatari financing of Islamic activities in Europe] explained in Geneva: “The goal is to take in charge every Muslim individual living Europe from cradle to grave.” The funds of the World Islamic League based in Saudi Arabia “are apparently financing mosques and organizations preaching a Wahhabi form of Islam” according to a professor at the University of Bern. Turkish mosques [in Switzerland] are apparently being financed by [Turkey’s] Directorate of Religious Affairs, a report from which asserts that Islam is superior to Christianity and Judaism, and that religious dialogue is unacceptable. One could enumerate many more such examples. Though Islamism is spreading in Switzerland, the country has many effective “watchdogs” who are active both in documenting these realities and in initiatives aiming to ban or at least reduce them.
A questionable integration
Whether in terms of welfare, crime, or social behavior, many statistics and incidents show that the ‘integration’ of a part of the non-Europeans is an empty slogan.
A recent study by the Federal Office of Statistics showed the over-representation of certain nationalities among welfare recipients. Thus at the end 2017, 83% of Somalians and 54% of Eritreans and Congolese living in Switzerland are on welfare. More generally, of the 350,000 beneficiaries of social assistance, 57% are foreigners.
The vast majority of prisoners are foreigners: 80% in French-speaking Switzerland and 50-60% in German-speaking Switzerland. The majority of prisoners in French-speaking prisons are from Eastern Europe, Black Africa, and the Maghreb. Between 1988 and 2017, there has been a significant increase in the share of foreigners among pre-sentencing detainees. On the whole, 7 out of 10 prisoners are foreigners, the highest proportion in Europe.
Incivility is observed on many occasions: lack of respect (insults, spitting) towards lifeguards at certain swimming pools; sexual assaults and death threats against paramedics. On both cases, the staff pointed to migrants as the wrong-doers. Switzerland is also unable to prevent violent rivalries between gangs in neighborhoods of migrant origin, notably in the suburbs of Zurich, where gangs are fighting for the title of “Bronx of Zurich.”
Referenda on immigration
Swiss citizens have been invited to vote many times on immigration issues. The following issues have recently been subject to referenda in recent years:
A ban on the building of minarets (2009)
The actual deportation of foreign criminals (2010 and 2016)
The end of mass migration (2014)
The primacy of national law over international agreements (2018). This last proposal was rejected, even though unchosen immigration (family reunification, asylum) stems from international agreements and treaties signed by the country. As the lawyer J. L. Harouel has observed: “public liberties have been overridden by fundamental rights, which mainly benefit immigrants, who systematically accede to all the rights and advantages of European peoples.”
The expulsion of foreign criminals (2010 vote), the ban on building minarets, and the limitation of immigration all won the required double majority of both voters and cantons. However, the vote against mass immigration did not lead to new rules for the movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union, because of the gridlock of the EU institutions. A new referendum on the subject will normally be organized in 2020.
National preference and selective immigration
Despite significant immigration, Switzerland has long wished to maintain control over migratory flows and protect its labor market. The country’s selective immigration policy is evident in the conditions demanded to come, live, and work in the country:
In 2014 Switzerland adopted a rule requiring employers to inform residents of job opportunities in certain fields, before being allowed to look further afield.
For non-Europeans, access to the labor market is even more Draconian: there is a genuine national preference here. The employer must prove that no Swiss may be employed if a position is given to a foreigner. Quotas for foreign workers are in place. Integration into Swiss society is also evaluated over time.
Selective immigration policy is also evident in the higher and higher qualifications required of immigrants, which facilitates their entry into the labor market.
The acquisition of Swiss nationality is very demanding: one must live in Switzerland for 12 years and know the country’s ways and customs in order to claim Swiss nationality. There is no birthright citizenship for second-generation immigrants.
Other initiatives aim to regain control of a situation which, in the eyes of many Swiss, is deteriorating:
The Swiss Confederation does not hesitate to deport foreign criminals, as 1000 were in 2017.
The Swiss government has not ratified the 2017 Marrakesh Pact on migration.
Some cantons, such as Tessin and Saint Gall, have banned the burqa.
On matters of asylum, a tough line is also being adopted:
Refugees will no longer be allowed to travel abroad.
In April 2019, the Federal Council took several measures to accelerate refugees’ entering the labor market, with a mandatory integration track (language-learning over three years, numbered targets for entry into the labor market, etc).
Those whose asylum claims have been rejected are less likely to be authorized to work in Switzerland.
Switzerland is remarkable in Europe for the rate of deportation of rejected asylum-seekers: 56% of deportation decisions are implemented, where the average is only 36% in Europe (and 12% in France).
The consequences are apparent: whereas the number of asylum claims is exploding in France, they decreased in Switzerland between 2017 and 2018. More and more rejected asylum-seekers are fleeing Switzerland for France, this especially concerns Eritreans.
In the face of significant migratory flows, the Swiss government has taken measures aiming to increase standards relative to immigration, to reduce immigration, and to defend the natives’ way of life.
The Swiss can, thanks to their democratic system, make proposals and express themselves on issues subject to referenda. They most recently affirmed their rejection of mass immigration. If the concrete measures to actually fulfill the popular will can, on some occasions, be disappointing, the referenda have enabled tougher policies to be adopted.