Prejudice tarnishes Swiss immigration image

A first wave of immigrants to Switzerland came from neighbouring Italy and from Spain in the 1960s. The city of Zurich in 2011 invited more than 700 of the 70-year olds to a public ceremony Keystone

The majority of immigrants are highly qualified, have professional motives to come to Switzerland and consider their position has improved, according to a nationwide survey by the Swiss National Science Foundation. 

This content was published on July 24, 2017 - 17:05 with agencies/urs

However, more than a third of the respondents said they were the victims of racial prejudice and discrimination. 

The Migration Mobility SurveyExternal link conducted by the University of Geneva polled 6,000 people from seven European countries and four other world regions who arrived in Switzerland between 2006 and 2016. 

In their preliminary findings, the researchers found that 62% of respondents from north and central Europe had professional reasons for their moves to Switzerland. 

People from western Africa and southern America gave family-related reasons for moving to Switzerland. 

Seven out of ten respondents said their job situation had improved in Switzerland, notably people from Portugal, Italy and Spain. 

“We were a bit surprised about the high level of satisfaction among immigrants,” said Philippe Wanner, deputy director of the NCCR On the move project and director of the Geneva School of Social SciencesExternal link

Male immigrants, notably from India, benefited markedly more than female immigrants from the same subcontinent. 

Qualification and discrimination 

More than two out of three immigrants have a higher education diploma: top of the list are people from English-speaking countries and from India. Italian, South American, Portuguese and western African immigrants were clearly below average in terms of their educational qualifications. 

The study, which will be published in a book at the end of 2018, also covered aspects of racism and individual naturalisation plans. 

Just over one in three respondents said they suffered racial prejudice or discrimination in Switzerland, particularly people from western Africa. 

Most immigrants feel strong emotional ties with their countries of origin, except people from neighbouring France and from South America. 

More than 60% of African and South American immigrants said they were planning to apply for Swiss citizenship, while the percentage is particularly low among the Portuguese and immigrants from Austria where dual nationality is not an option. 

The research project was launched in 2014 and takes place against a background of decades of political debate fostered notably by the political right, against immigration.

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