Swiss to vote on expulsion of foreigners in case of minor crimes
People in Switzerland are set to cast their ballots in a referendum on whether to automatically deport foreigners who commit minor crimes.
The anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which holds about a third of seats in the Alpine country’s parliament, put forward the initiative dubbed the “Enforcement Initiative.”
The proposal, which will be put to vote later on Sunday by Switzerland’s voting population of roughly 5.3 million, calls for the approval of a two-level plan for dealing with foreign criminals.
Under the measure, those who commit offenses such as armed robbery or rape would be immediately deported after serving their jail term. Those committing lesser crimes could also be expelled if it is their second violation within a 10-year time span.
Critics argue that the initiative would make expulsions an administrative formality and strip judges of their ability to weigh the merits of individual cases.
Meanwhile, the Federal Council, Switzerland’s seven-member executive body, has described the measure as “inhuman,” saying it treats the country’s approximately two million foreigners like “second-class citizens.”
Opinion polls suggest the vote will be close. Last month, the GfS Bern research institute said 51 percent of respondents were in favor of the proposal. A second survey in mid-February also found that support had dwindled to 46 percent, compared to 49 percent against and 5 percent still undecided.
Over 10,000 people could reportedly be affected by expulsions if the initiative is adopted.
Switzerland is not a member of the 28-country European Union, but it is part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-hit zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame the support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the refugee influx into Europe.