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Sunday, November 24, 2002

Here's Another Country That Just Doesn't Get It

Today Swiss voters will cast ballots on a measure that, if passed, will give the country one of the most restrictive immigration policies in Europe. The referendum, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, is an attempt to deny asylum to anybody who arrives in Switzerland from a country considered to be a safe haven. This category applies to all of Switzerland's neighbors, including Italy, which to date has practised the rather hypocritical policy of serving as a transit country. The measure also proposes reducing social benefits for people whose applications are under review, and plans to impose penalties on any airline that brings in passengers without appropriate papers.

Aliki Panayides, vice secretary general of the People's Party, said the party campaigned to get the measure on the ballot because too many people were trying to reach Switzerland for economic rather than political reasons. This is exactly the part they don't get. It is Switzerland, an ageing society, that needs the immigrants, FOR ECONOMIC REASONS.

The referendum, whose outcome pollsters say is too close to call, has been condemned by all other Swiss parties, the government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. "If the Swiss vote yes to this initiative," said Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations high commissioner, "the country will have more or less shut its doors to people fleeing persecution, even people who have escaped atrocities, massacres or torture." Despite this criticism, 71 percent of Swiss voters believe their country, which already has Europe's highest concentration of refugees, is attracting too many asylum seekers, according to a poll conducted for Swiss television by the GFS research institute.
Source: New York Times

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