Swiss approve automatic expulsion of foreign criminals
Switzerland on Sunday endorsed a far-right push to automatically expel foreign residents convicted of certain crimes, to the dismay of critics who described it as a "dark day for human rights."
Some 52.9 percent of those who voted were in favour, while 47.1 percent were against, with the country's German-speaking majority largely backing the proposal. Only six out of 26 cantons rejected it.
The move came exactly a year after Switzerland shocked the world by agreeing to ban the construction of new minarets, which was another proposal backed by the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP).
As with their campaign against minarets, the SVP had launched an aggressive campaign to push forward their proposal for the expulsion of foreign criminals, saying that those guilty of certain crimes should be stripped of their right to remain in the country.
Its signature poster illustrates a white sheep kicking a black sheep out of the Swiss flag. Another poster depicts a gangster-like man with the slogan "Ivan S., rapist, and soon a Swiss?"
"It's very simple: we think that people we welcome in Switzerland should respect the rules of this country," Fabrice Moscheni, president of the SVP in canton Vaud, told AFP.
"If they don't respect these rules, they should be going away and expelled from our territory," he said.
"If you welcome somebody to your house, and he comes and destroys everything, I don't think you want him to come back."
Judges can already issue expulsion orders for foreign criminals, but the SVP's proposal goes further.
It would require automatic expulsions for those found guilty of "rape, serious sexual offence, acts of violence such as robbery," drug trafficking, as well as "abuse of social aid."
According to the Federal Office of Migration, some 350 to 400 people are expelled every year, but this figure would rise to 1,500 with the adoption of the initiative.
Critics object that the initiative smacks of discrimination, and that it runs in the same xenophobic vein as that of banning minarets.
Amnesty International said the approval of the initiative marked a "dark day for human rights in Switzerland."
"The initiative violates not only various international conventions... it is also contrary to the principle of proportionality and that of the ban on all forms of discrimination written into the federal constitution," said the rights group.
"The initiators has once more abused the right of an initiative to increase their political capital through xenophobic discourse," said the group.
Separately, the Swiss clearly rejected a move by the Socialist Party for "more tax justice," with 58.5 percent voting against.
The party had asked the Swiss to approve a minimum tax rate of 22 percent for people earning more than 250,000 francs (188,000 euros, 249,000 dollars), however.
The move would have capped the right of individual cantons and communes to set their own tax rates and force the country's wealthiest to pay more to the taxmen.
It was opposed by the government and centre-right parties. Some industrialists such as lift magnate Alfred Schindler had threatened to pack up and leave if the proposal is adopted.
© 2010 AFP