Proposal for immigration restrictions under debate

Supporters of the initiative warn unrestricted immigration will have "disastrous consequences". © Keystone/Walter Bieri

Parliament has been holding a major debate about plans by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to limit immigration and cancel a deal on the free movement of people with citizens from the European Union.

This content was published on September 16, 2019 - 21:54

The House of Representatives is set to come out against a people’s initiative handed in by right-wing groups in August 2018 demanding a nationwide vote on the issue.

After six hours of debate on Monday, the debate was adjourned until next week. More than 80 parliamentarians are scheduled to address the house.

The People’s Party warns the population of Switzerland could soon reach ten million, from the current total of 8.5 million, if nothing is done to curb the influx of immigrants.

However, no other major political party is likely to support the proposal. The government has also dismissed the plans. They argue approval of immigration restrictions would further undermine strained ties with the 28-nation bloc, notably a series of bilateral agreements.

Ahead of elections

Observers say the debate is a platform for right-wing groups with anti-EU and anti-foreigner agendas to draw public attention ahead of the parliamentary elections in October.

Latest polls found that the People’s Party is losing ground but it is still clearly ahead of any other party.

The Senate, the other parliamentary chamber, is to discuss the initiative before the government sets a date for the nationwide ballot.

In 2014, Swiss voters narrowly approved a right-wing proposal to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens, but parliament refused to implement the provisions. Instead it agreed a watered-down legal amendment giving preference to Swiss citizens over foreign employees.

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