The Swiss citizens will decide on 28 February if they want from the Swiss state to impose an automatic expel of convicted foreigners, without granting them the right to appeal.
According to Reuters, the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which holds about a third of seats in the Swiss parliament, engineered the referendum by securing the required number of signatures.
Even before the refugee crisis, the EU neighbor country wanted to toughen its immigration policy as it feared that many EU nationals will seek to leave their austerity-stricken home countries and go to Switzerland which has better living standards.
The upcoming referendum doesn’t solely target the refugees but all the foreigners who live in Switzerland. The law, under public consideration, will also include the Swiss-born migrant children.
According to Reuters, the proposed law, says that the automatic expel will apply after any kind of conviction even minors one, such as a speeding ticket. Reuters reported that if a foreigner commits two lesser offences within a 10-year period, then he will be expelled.
The referendum will be subjected to the Swiss system of direct democracy and therefore a simple majority is enough for securing the outcome of the vote. Reuters reported that the polls suggest supporters of the proposal slightly outnumber opponents.
EU Switzerland relations
Currently, the relation between Switzerland and the EU regarding immigration is not at their best, since the Swiss government is trying to toughen the country’s immigration laws against EU nationals.
In December, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, rejected the Swiss demand to be allowed to impose limits on immigration from EU countries (clause de sauvegarde unilatérale.)
Foreigners and the Swiss economy
Reuters stressed that foreigners make up one-fourth of the country’s 8 million people with many of them working for big companies in the Alpine country.
In December 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported that Switzerland is the most competitive country in the world and one of the basic reasons behind that is that the Swiss businesses are extremely sophisticated, described by strong meritocracy which allows the country to “nurture and attract talent,” from all over the world.
The WEF had warned the Swiss policy makers to be more cautious regarding the tightening of the migration laws, as the rich-country might lose its ability to attract talented individuals.
The referendum has drawn the attention of major Swiss-based companies including drugmaker Novartis, two-thirds of whose 13,500 employees in Switzerland are foreign.
“It’s understandable that people are concerned…(but) at the same time, Switzerland has to think about the policies that made it an incredible country (so) attractive for companies to come here,” Chief Executive of the well-known pharmaceutical company Joe Jimenez said.