People who were born in Switzerland but who do not have Swiss citizenship are concerned. On February 28, Swiss voters will decide – again – on deporting foreigners found guilty of certain crimes.
“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say nine! I’m very worried,” said Leyla Gül, co-general secretary of the centre-left Social Democratic Party and co-founder of SecondosPlus Bern, part of a national group that fights for citizenship and equal opportunities.
“I find the initiative fundamentally wrong – not only for people who are born here but also for people who have immigrated here. We have a system of law and the rules apply to everyone who lives here.”
It all goes back to November 2010, when 52.9% of voters accepted an initiative organised by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party calling for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of certain serious crimes. These included murder, rape, other serious sexual offences, violence such as armed robbery, drug trafficking, human trafficking, breaking and entering, and welfare fraud.
“I respect the will of the people, but I clearly belonged to those people who said we have a good legal basis and people sentenced for a crime will be punished here: they’ll pay a fine here and go to prison here,” Gül told swissinfo.ch.
As it turned out, parliament struggled to implement the deportation initiative, rewording some passages and adding a clause that the courts would be able to intervene if they thought deportation would result in serious hardship for the person involved.
The People’s Party denounced this version, considering it “watered down”, and collected enough signatures to force another initiative calling for the implementation to the letter of their original initiative from 2010.
Parliament and the cabinet have recommended voters reject this so-called enforcement initiative – as they did, in vain, the 2010 deportation initiative. Explaining the cabinet’s position at the end of December, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga warned that if it were accepted, in some cases people born in Switzerland would be deported to countries where they didn’t know anyone and might not even speak the language.
This is not a problem for People’s Party politician Yvette Estermann, herself a naturalised Swiss, having emigrated from Slovakia in her mid-twenties.
“What is a problem are the rapes and robberies going on in our country,” she told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on January 7. “We’re now sending young foreigners a clear signal: ‘Look sonny, this is where you’ll have to go if you commit a crime. Do you really want that?’ Our enforcement initiative is not least an educational measure.”