Swiss set to vote on proposals to limit immigration

Swiss set to vote on proposals to limit immigration

PanARMENIAN.Net - Swiss voters are going to the polls on Sunday, Nov 30, to vote for the second time in nine months on proposals to limit immigration, BBC News reports.

Last February the Swiss narrowly backed a plan to reintroduce immigration quotas for EU citizens, in effect opting out of the European Union's free movement of people policy.

But because Switzerland, while not an EU member, has a whole series of economically vital trade agreements with Brussels, which depend on maintaining free movement, the Swiss government has not yet found a way to implement February's vote.

Some critics among the Swiss right have accused the government of not taking the wishes of voters seriously, and of being soft on immigration.

The new proposal to be tested in Sunday's referendum goes much further.

Called 'Ecopop', it would reduce immigration to Switzerland to just 0.2% of the overall population, effectively limiting new migrants to about 16,000 a year, a fraction of today's estimated 80,000.

And, in an unusual twist, the proposal also calls for 10% of Switzerland's overseas aid budget to be spent on family-planning projects in developing countries.

The proposal is the brainchild of Benno Buehler, a supporter of Switzerland's 40-year-old "Ecopop" movement, which seeks to link environmental protection with controlling population growth.

"Switzerland grew over the past seven years about 50% faster than the UK for example, and about five times faster than the European community as a whole," says Buehler. "At this speed we are basically on the level of India. This is not sustainable."

He says his plan will not cause labor shortages, but will instead allow Switzerland to pick and choose the best skilled labor from anywhere in the world.

Switzerland's population is about 8.18 million - of whom 1.96 million are not Swiss nationals, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO). EU citizens make up the vast majority of immigrants in Switzerland. The largest group of foreign nationals living in Switzerland is from Italy. Immigration from Italy started more than a century ago, but difficulties getting Swiss nationality meant many families remained Italian. The second largest group comes from Germany, and the third largest comes from the former Yugoslavia.

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