Skip to comments.Swiss vote on tighter asylum laws
Posted on 09/24/2006 4:32:02 AM PDT by Republicain
Swiss voters are going to the polls to decide whether the country should impose more restrictive asylum laws.
The UN says that the measures under consideration in the nationwide referendum could lead to breaches of the Geneva Convention on Refugees.
The laws include demands for valid identity papers and cuts on welfare for asylum seekers and the detention of rejected applicants until deportation.
The Swiss government says the changes will reduce abuse of its asylum system.
The Swiss Refugee Council say the measures are far too strict, especially at a time when the number of people applying for asylum in Switzerland is at its lowest in 20 years.
"The concrete effects for the persons concerned may be that persecuted persons, real refugees, will be hindered access to the asylum procedure and may even be rejected and returned," Jurg Schertenleib of the Swiss Refugee Council said.
The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne says that like most western European countries Switzerland is unwilling to have its traditionally generous asylum system exploited.
And, as in other countries, our correspondent says, there are cases of people applying for asylum who are not fleeing persecution, but simply looking for a better life.
Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, who piloted the legislation, says what he calls the "paradise of Switzerland" just does not have room for everybody.
His sentiments seem to reflect public opinion, our correspondent says. However, many are concerned that in introducing such strict measures Switzerland will damage its traditional image as a generous and humanitarian country.
The requirement that asylum seekers present proof of identity within 48 hours has been sharply criticised, with the UN Refugee Agency saying it is common for genuine refugees not to have any means of identification.
And opponents say the introduction of up to two years detention for those awaiting deportation, including minors, could violate the UN convention on the rights of the child.
in US, "joe six pack" might be gettin resentful of 15 people in a 3 BR house w/8 vehicles cluttering the area in front of several houses; the predictable effect hurts property values, not to mention public facilitie such as the ER, and societal values and culture.
Swiss approve tighter asylum laws
Exit polls show that around two-thirds of Swiss voters have approved a referendum calling for tougher asylum legislation. The restrictive legislation, among the toughest in Europe, had already been approved by parliament.
Opponents gathered signatures for a referendum in hopes that the legislation would be defeated. Under the new rules, asylum seekers must be able to show the authorities a passport within 48 hours. Other documents, such as a driving license, will no longer be accepted. Switzerland admitted just over 10,000 asylum seekers in 2005, far fewer than the previous year.