The Swiss and the foreigners

one of the dark sides of life here for me has always been the Fremdenhass that one sees in society. This means hatred of foreigners. It is not unique to Switzerland of course, but it still disturbs me. Here we are in a beautiful country with a super lifestyle, and yet there is this undercurrent of mistrust of foreigners. It has always been here. When we first arrived in Switzerland in 1991 we had issues getting an apartment, many adverts at the time clearly stated – Swiss only. I still remember some women on the train talking to us, and complaining about foreigners. When we pointed out that we were foreigners, she said ” ah but I do not mean your sort of foreigners”. No she meant people from the eastern part of Europe, or with dark skin. Obvious foreigners. Not fair skinned blue eyed Brits. We are the acceptable face of foreigners. Maybe as an “acceptable” foreigner we would have been able to get one of those apartments reserved for Swiss only, but I would not want to live in it even if we could have.

Now we are Swiss, and have the vote, so are able to influence just ever so slightly the issues here. Voting is something that the Swiss democracy is famous for, even if for some women in some cantons, it did not come in until the mid 1970´s. But we can vote on everything, a popular vote can be called for by raising the requisite number of signatures.

there is a vote coming up at the end of this month. One of the issues on the table is the so called “Ausschaffungs” initiative. This is something that would find favor in a lot of countries at present. It means that any foreigner who commits a crime from a specific list of crimes, faces being sent back to his original country, unless it is too dangerous for this person there. It has been brought by the SVP, one of the most racist parties we have in Switzerland, who do not like foreigners at all, and are always pushing to restrict the number of work permits provided and thereby the number of foreigners allowed in. They also did rather too well in the last election, so can now push even more there anti foreigner policies.

Now okay, there is merit in saying that foreigners who come here and commit serious crimes should be kicked out of the country, but it is a grey line. It will lead to people who have been here their whole lives and never taken Swiss nationality, being punished over and  above what a Swiss person who grew up here would be for the same offense. It is against the Human rights act as well, something that does not seem to bother the SVP.

The list of crimes can mean that somebody who commits a driving offence and ends up in court, could then be kicked out if he years later steals an apple from his neighbours tree and the neighbour takes him to court over it. There was a case in Australia, who have bought in a similar law, of a guy who was British by birth, but had lived in Australia since the age of 4 months, who faces being deported back to the UK in his fifties because he set a bush fire, and had previously had a drugs charge.  He had done his time for both, but now faces the extra punishment of deportation to a country where he has never lived and has no contacts.

It is basically unfair to punish someone twice just because they have the wrong nationality.

this week in the paper I read of a 12 year old boy with Albanian roots, living in Switzerland, who was beaten unconscious by several older Swiss teenagers following an incident with some snowballs. If that had been some Swiss child beaten up by older Albanians then all hell would have broken lose. Instead nothing happened until the boys father went to the police.  If the boys are ever identified, then the Swiss boys will not be deported. They may get a juvenile sentence and that will be the end of it. The other way round, if it had been foreign teenagers beating up some child, that juvenile sentence would mean any further misdemeanor would result in deportation.

So I will be voting no to the Ausschaffungsinitiative, and I hope a lot of fellow Swiss vote no too. Fremdenhass is not the way that a civilized society should operate.  It is the way of fear and as I have always maintained, fear is no way to run a society or decide anything.

 

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