Switzerland has approved a plan to automatically deport foreigners convicted of serious crimes. The proposal, put forth by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, has been criticized by human rights groups.
Foreigners make up more than a fifth of the Swiss population
Swiss voters have approved a far-right initiative to automatically expel foreign residents convicted of serious crimes, according to poll results.
Swiss national broadcaster SF1 said 52.9 percent of voters backed the initiative in Sunday's referendum, a plan proposed by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
A counter-proposal put forth by the Swiss government, which would make expulsion dependent on the length of a prison term rather on an arbitrary list of offenses, appears to have been rejected by most voters, according to preliminary results. Currently, decisions to expel foreigners convicted of serious crimes are made on a case-by-case basis.
Posters for the Swiss People's Party have been controversial
The initiative, which would apply to foreigners convicted of crimes like murder, rape or trafficking in drugs or people, has been criticized by human rights groups and legal experts, who said it could disregard international anti-discrimination treaties and the free movement of peoples under European Union law.
Switzerland, while not an EU member, does allow EU citizens to take residence without special permission.
Foreigners make up more than a fifth of Switzerland's population of 7.7 million, and according to official figures are disproportionately charged with crimes.
Growing support for SVP
The SVP has become one of Switzerland's biggest political movements in recent years, garnering support by playing on the rising fear about immigration.
Posters for the SVP proposal showed a group of white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, a move criticized by anti-racism groups.
Sunday's referendum comes a year after Switzerland approved a ban on the construction of minarets, a decision that drew international criticism.
Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP, AP, Reuters)
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