Switzerland: Advisory panel is wary of integration plans

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Sep 12 14:31:43 UTC 2007


 [image: Main Page] <http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/index.html>
September 11, 2007 - 1:35 PM Advisory panel is wary of integration
plans [image:
The government wants mandatory language courses for immigrants]

Image caption: The government wants mandatory language courses for
immigrants (Keystone)


The Federal Foreigners Commission has expressed scepticism about the
introduction of plans by the government to integrate foreigners into Swiss
society.

Last month, the cabinet announced more than 40 wide-ranging measures to
improve the integration of foreigners, with languages and education being
the focus. At a news conference in Bern on Tuesday, the commission said it
was concerned about the increasing number of blunders, posters and
statements made against foreigners ahead of the parliamentary elections on
October 21. The president of the commission, Francis Matthey, did not mince
his words: "We must prevent the current damaging climate" against foreigners
to call into question "the image and dignity of our country". The commission
recommended that the government measures should only be used with
caution. It said that integration efforts that obliged foreigners to take
language courses, for example, were nothing new in Europe.


No universal remedy



Although agreeing the measures were appropriate to permit "as rapid an entry
into the host society as possible", it did not consider them a universal
remedy. A residence permit that was dependent on attendance at a language
course was a one-sided approach. A successful integration policy also
depended on the "good climate" within a country. The commission also
suggested that the authorities also examine whether those people who behaved
in a hostile manner towards foreigners should also be obliged to take
courses.


Law



In a related development, the centre-right Radical Party has presented plans
for a national integration law. Party President Fulvio Pelli said the
current integration policies had failed to resolve existing problems,
including youth violence and a significant number of criminals of foreign
origin. He called for a pro-active and constructive strategy of easing
integration problems. There was only a lukewarm reception from the other
main political parties after publication of the government report, which the
centre-left Social Democrats describing it as "long-winded". The rightwing
Swiss People's Party wants to link the issuing of a residence permit for
foreigners to tests in a national language - German, French or Italian.



For their part, the centre-right Christian Democratic Party said the report
failed to address ways to tackle discrimination of immigrants in the hunt
for jobs and housing. Eduard Gnesa, director of the Federal Migration
Office, said the measures would mainly be targeted at young foreigners, and
they included improving residential areas for immigrants, public safety,
sport, health and the fight against racism. Nevertheless, the government
emphasised that immigrants also had a personal responsibility to get to
grips with Swiss habits and norms and to learn a national language.

CONTEXT


The Swiss electorate approved the new law on foreigners with a clear 68% yes
vote in September 2006. It limits immigration for citizens outside the EU
and the European Free Trade Association (Efta) to highly skilled labour. It
also aims to encourage integration, in particular by language courses, while
cracking down on human trafficking and marriages of convenience. Foreigners
also have to make efforts towards integration, according to the spirit of
the law.



KEY FACTS

   - The foreign population of Switzerland in 2006 was 1,523,586 people.
   - Foreigners represent 20.4% of the total population.
   - They make up 25.4% of the population in the Italian-language region,
   25% in the French-language area and 18.5% in the German-language part.




*URL of this story:*
http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/swissinfo.html?siteSect=105&sid=8206682

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