Illegal immigrants' supporters continue to occupy churches

The illegal immigrants' movement has taken its message all the way to the federal authorities Keystone

Supporters of illegal immigrants seeking residency rights have occupied churches in Zurich and Basel. The protests follow several occupations which took place in Bern and several French-speaking cities over the summer.

This content was published on October 22, 2001 - 12:21

On Sunday around 20 people occupied Basel's St Anthony's church to demand an end to expulsions from Switzerland and the granting of residency status to the country's 200,000 illegal immigrants.

The occupation has the support of the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, and the construction and industry trade union.

Their protest came a day after a group in Zurich, including a handful of illegal immigrants, occupied the city's cathedral for 24 hours. The aim of the peaceful demonstration was to show solidarity with illegal immigrants living in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, in Bern, a group of illegal immigrants, which had been occupying St Mary's Catholic church since mid-September, moved into the Protestant St Paul's church.

The Bern group's aim is to make other inhabitants of the city aware of the problems facing illegal immigrants.

The Zurich protest marked the first time that protesters have taken their cause to the heart of German-speaking Switzerland. To date, the matter has only been raised in French-speaking Switzerland and the capital, Bern.

The question of illegal immigrants who have lived in Switzerland for many years is a political hot potato and a more than five months of peaceful protests on the issue has catapulted the matter into the heart of Swiss politics.

The latest protests follow a summer of church occupations across Switzerland by illegal immigrants. The biggest collective was in Fribourg, where 80 people from 14 different nationalities staged an 11-week long sit-in.

The group included people whose temporary asylum status or temporary work permits had expired. Many had lived and settled in Switzerland and had children here.

swissinfo with agencies

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