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SWitzerland: The (severe) voice of experience

Recerca | 25/03/2008

The case of Switzerland.

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One in five inhabitants is foreign. Stricter and more decentralized policies have marked the country’s stability. A strong xenophobia stands out among the citizens, together with a marked separation of the newcomers from Swiss identity.


The economic growth of Switzerland, without interruption during the world wars, has converted this country into a centre of attraction for temporary labour. The Swiss Confederation is currently breaking immigration records (reaching 20.6% of the population). The progression has been gradual and accompanied by rigorist measures. Entry into the country is fixed by strict quotas, which means that the immense majority of newcomers are European. Naturalization demands 12 years’ residence, history and culture tests and other requirements.

Immigration powers are considerably decentralized. Some cantons grant voting rights, others do not and some leave it in the hands of the municipalities. Residence permits depend on the cantons. Work permits are regulated in a shared manner with the state, and naturalizations are the joint responsibility of the three levels of government (state, cantons and municipalities). All in all, in 2007 the FOM described Switzerland as an example of success in immigration policy.

The process has, however, taken its toll. Integration is so laborious that many immigrants reject Swiss identity, and part of them easily become marginalized (over half of judicial sentences are for foreigners). At the same time, Swiss citizens discriminate against foreigners. Half of them declare themselves xenophobic and the UDC, a party with racist touches, was the party with the most votes in 2007 with 29%.

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