Swiss researchers gear up for crunch immigration vote, fearing return to scientific exile

Of note:

Swiss voters go to the polls in a month to decide whether to cap free movement of citizens from the EU, in a referendum seen as a crunch test of the country’s ties with the 27-member bloc.

The vote, were it to succeed, would violate bilateral accords that enhance Swiss access to the EU’s single market, and directly threaten researchers access to the next science programme, Horizon Europe.

“I’m a bit worried about the vote,” said Gian-Luca Bona, CEO of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. “This is extremely important for our economy. The special circumstances of COVID-19 mean there are many irrational things happening. There are a lot of emotions around at the moment.”

Bona leads a lab of 1,000 scientists, made up of 60 different nationalities. He fears a repeat of 2014, when a slim majority of Swiss voters backed a similar motion that sought to restore limits on immigration. The EU responded by cutting off full Swiss membership to Horizon 2020, the current research programme. What followed was an almost three-year scramble for Switzerland to regain full access.

Now, in what is essentially a repeat of the 2014 vote, Bona fears the country could be thrust back into scientific exile.

“Infections are growing slowly but steadily,” he said. “The real impact on the economy from COVID-19 could start to show this fall; a second wave could aggravate things. We could see chapter 11-style closures of businesses.”

“The discussion that could follow, around prioritising the Swiss citizens, is the dangerous part in this referendum. I hope rational thinking determines what we do next.”

While not unusual for Switzerland, where plebiscites on specific questions are common, for Brussels, the vote raises the prospect of yet another embarrassing national referendum on the EU.

The threat of being blocked from the full €94.1 billion Horizon programme, which starts next year, is a source of major disquiet for Swiss academics.

After the 2014 experience, they’re fully alive to the danger. On Thursday, a collection of top scientific organisations, including the ETH Board, the Swiss National Science Foundation and Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, jointly called for voters to reject the proposal.

“It’s rather open for me, what’s going to happen in this vote,” said Tilman Esslinger, who leads the quantum optics group at ETH Zurich.

“There’s a very special set of circumstances – coronavirus, severe economic challenges. This can amplify in one or the other direction. The world has changed. People probably don’t even know themselves yet how they’ll vote. People have other things on their mind now, like how they will get their kids back into schools safely. They might not be thinking of politics,” Esslinger said.

Political analysts, however, say the initiative faces many obstacles.

“Plenty of things are now running against it. Because of coronavirus, it doesn’t have the monopoly of attention or debate,” says Oscar Mazzoleni, political scientist at the University of Lausanne.

The Swiss will be voting on five separate subjects on September 27, including the purchase of new military airplanes, the length of paternity leave and the right to hunt wolves and other animals.

Support for the Swiss People’s Party, which put the immigration vote on the agenda, is lower than it was six years’ ago, Mazzoleni noted.

The build-up to the vote is short, too, in comparison to the months-long campaigning seen in 2014.

The reaction to the government’s handling of coronavirus is generally positive, meaning the public may not view the upcoming vote as a weapon to punish politicians.

“They delivered the money; they supported the economy during the pandemic. And it’s too early to see the impact of the virus on the economy anyway. The real crisis is still in the future,” Mazzoleni said.

Politicians fear success for the immigration vote would wreck their hopes of putting relations with Brussels on a new footing.

Like the UK, Switzerland is in its own difficult negotiation with the EU, being asked to endorse a new treaty that would require it to routinely adopt single market rules.

The EU views this as merely updating and simplifying the Swiss arrangement, which spans a complex web of more than 120 bilateral deals. But the new treaty also includes demands that the Swiss soften rules protecting wages, the highest in Europe, from cross-border competition by EU workers on temporary assignments. Critics say the treaty infringes Swiss sovereignty.

The country’s relationship with the EU is the “hidden dimension” of the immigration vote, Mazzoleni said

“We’re in a no-man’s land, from a diplomatic point of view, with the EU right now. Brussels is much more focused on the UK. So the future relationship is not part of the referendum debate at the moment,” he said.

More support for immigration

For Nenad Stojanović, professor of political science at the University of Geneva, “The chances are quite high that the initiative will not be accepted. Many people outside Switzerland, who don’t fully understand our tradition of direct democracy, simply presume that people would accept something like this. In the Swiss context, this claim is not supported by the facts,” he said.

There have been seven similar popular initiatives to curb immigration since 1970, said Stojanović. “With one exception, the 2014 vote, the others failed. And this was during all kinds of periods, good economies and bad,” he said.

If anything, Stojanović expects the experience of coronavirus will have strengthened peoples’ perception of foreigners, who account for almost a quarter of the Swiss population.

“The pandemic has shown that without foreign workers, the whole health system would have collapsed,” he said.

Source: Swiss researchers gear up for crunch immigration vote, fearing return to scientific exile

Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss – SWI

Some of the highest fees in Europe:

Naturalisation fees vary among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. This has caught the eye of the federal price watchdog, who doubts that the fees fall within the legal framework.

The law on Swiss citizenshipexternal link stipulates that “the fees may not amount to more than is required to cover costs”. But for price watchdog Stefan Meierhans this is “more than questionable”, as he writes in his newsletterexternal link on Thursday.

He says one reason for his doubts are the great differences between cantons. These are “far too large and are not comprehensible against the background of the cost recovery principle”. The result is a “great inequality in treatment of people seeking naturalisation”.

What is a justified price for naturalisation? Meierhans considers a cantonal and municipal fee of a maximum of CHF1,500 ($1,540) per adult to be fair. He adds that it should be possible to increase the fee moderately for an “extraordinarily high amount of work”.

Most cantons charge around this figure, but a survey by the price watchdog shows there’s a wide range, with the process costing from CHF200 to CHF2,200. In 19 cantons the average is not more than CHF1,000. In several cantons, however, naturalisation can be considerably more expensive, with fees of up to CHF4,000 being possible.

Source: Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss – SWI

Switzerland: Immigrants who naturalize outearn their peers

Interesting study from Switzerland that likely reflects in part the particularities of the Swiss immigrant population and the citizenship acquisition process. Makes the case for more facilitative approaches to granting citizenship:

The moment when an immigrant becomes a citizen of his adopted country looks remarkably similar in ceremonies around the world: a hand raised, an oath taken, a flag waved, and a celebration with family and friends. But the road leading to that moment differs widely by country. Some are long and steep and others more walkable, depending on the country’s policies.

Behind this divergence is a kind of chicken-and-egg problem. Is citizenship a prize, something to be won only after considerable striving? Then it should be surrounded by hurdles, like requirements that you’ve mastered the language, lived in the country a long time, and achieved a certain level of economic success. Or is citizenship an invitation to build a future in the country, something that helps immigrants succeed? Then it should be easier to get.

Which side has the better of the argument? A new study from the Immigration Policy Lab at ETH Zurich and Stanford University (IPL) sheds light on the importance of citizenship in immigrants’ trajectories. Looking at more than thirty years of data on thousands of immigrants in Switzerland, IPL researchers found that those who had naturalized earned more money each year than those who hadn’t—and the boost in income was largest for people facing the greatest disadvantages in the labor market.

A Puzzle for Researchers

Considering the benefits usually reserved for citizens, it’s easy to imagine how naturalizing early on could equip immigrants to prosper: access to advantageous jobs, eligibility for scholarships to get education and training, and the assurance that they can stay in the country indefinitely and invest in the future.

But it’s hard to prove that citizenship actually delivers on this promise, because those who get citizenship and those who don’t aren’t similar enough to allow for meaningful comparison. People who jump the hurdles to apply for citizenship differ in many ways from those who hold back, and successful applicants differ from unsuccessful ones. If naturalized immigrants do better in the long run, this could be due to any number of factors—factors that, like work ethic or resources, also account for their ability to successfully navigate the citizenship application process.

“To accurately assess the benefits of citizenship it is essential to compare naturalized and non-naturalized immigrants that are similar in all characteristics but for their passport”, said Dalston Ward, a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich.

This is where Switzerland is a boon to social scientists. Between 1970 and 2003, some Swiss towns put citizenship applications to a . To become a Swiss citizen, an immigrant would have to receive more “yes” than “no” votes. For applicants who won or lost by only a handful of votes, the decision may as well have been pure chance, enabling an apples-to apples comparison. Combine that with decades of records from the Swiss pension system showing annual earnings, and you have a trustworthy way to determine whether or not citizenship actually improves immigrants’ fortunes.

Long-Term Benefits

After identifying those who narrowly won or lost their bid for citizenship, the researchers looked back at the five years leading up to the vote that would divide them. There, they had similar incomes. But after the vote, the new citizens went on to earn more money than those who remained in permanent residency status, and the earnings gap increased as time went on. At first, they earned an average of about 3,000 Swiss francs more (roughly the same in U.S. dollars), and that increased to almost 8,000 a decade later. In any given year after the vote awarded them citizenship, these immigrants earned an average of 5,637 more than their peers.

“In sum, these findings provide causal evidence that citizenship is an important catalyst for economic integration, which benefits both immigrants and host communities”, said Jens Hainmueller, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

If citizenship was the wedge between the two groups, how exactly did it lift one above the other? The most likely explanation, the researchers thought, was that it counteracted the discrimination that colors immigrants’ lives in the job market. When immigrants apply for jobs in Switzerland, their citizenship status is almost as visible as hair color or height, and individual employers can use it to filter candidates. Immigrants who haven’t become citizens may be seen as less skilled or less likely to remain in the country. On the other hand, because it is relatively difficult to gain citizenship in Switzerland, it may act as a kind of credential.

A closer look at the data bears this out. Citizenship made the greatest difference for immigrants facing obstacles—those likely to be discriminated against for their religion or country of origin, or those in low-wage occupations. When the researchers focused on immigrants from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, who were often refugees and potentially targets of anti-Muslim sentiment, they found an average yearly earnings gain of 10,721—roughly double that of the new citizens as a whole.

According to Dominik Hangartner, a professor of public policy at ETH Zurich, “the finding that the benefits are disproportionally larger for poorer and more marginalized immigrants speaks to the important role that citizenship policies can play in facilitating more equal access to employment opportunities for immigrants.”

While income is only one element of an immigrant’s life, the persistence of the earnings gap revealed in this study raises an important question about the public purpose of citizenship. We tend to think of citizenship as a private issue, personally meaningful to the but not necessarily something society or state should invest in.

But if citizenship can counter discrimination, boost social mobility, and act as a stepping stone toward deeper integration, then its benefits reach beyond immigrants themselves. That means that we all have a stake in the debate over whether to obstruct or ease access to . At a time when cities, states, and countries around the world are reconsidering their welcome to immigrants, it’s all the more important to have solid evidence about the contributions newcomers can make—and the policies that best encourage them.

Source: Immigrants who naturalize outearn their peers

What should be done with foreigners who joined Islamic State?

Swiss perspectives:

Switzerland is one the many countries facing difficult choices in dealing with their citizens linked to the Islamic State. These are some of the options on the table, and the challenges involved.

US-backed Kurdish-led forces are currently holding tens of thousands of people linked to Islamic State in northern Syria after capturing the last IS stronghold in March. Rights groups are concerned about due process and prison conditions for IS detainees both in Syria and in neighbouring Iraq.

The detainees are mostly Syrians and Iraqis but also include some 2,000 foreigners from more than 70 countries, as well as women and children being held in a separate camp that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described as “deeply sub-standard”. There are currently a dozen adults with links to Switzerland in northern Syria, and the United Nations this week called for fair trials for Islamic State captives and for countries to take responsibility for their nationals.

“Accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalisation and violence,” Bachelet saidexternal link on Monday. “Betrayals of justice, following flawed trials – which may include unlawful and inhumane detention, and capital punishment – can only serve the narrative of grievance and revenge.”

In northeast Syria, Swiss public television (RTS) interviewed a Swiss jihadist who has been detained by the Kurds since January 2018.

 How can justice be served?

One possibility is to have IS members tried by the local justice system set up by the Kurdish self-administration in northeast Syria, says Marco Sassoli external link, director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Another possibility is that the foreign fighters are sent back to their home countries.

The third possibility is to establish a kind of international tribunal, Sassoli told

They could also be transferred to Iraq and judged there, which has already happened in some cases.

The Geneva Academy recently co-organised a conference on the issue with the NGO Fight for Humanity, which produced a report and recommendationsexternal link. But none of the options are simple.

Could foreign fighters be repatriated?

With the notable exception of countries such as the US and Russia, most Western governments – and their electorates – are not keen on the idea of repatriating these “combatants”. Some countries, including Britain, have stripped former IS members of their nationality.

Switzerland has said it will not actively repatriate its nationals, and Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has said she would prefer to see them tried where they are in Syria or Iraq, for security reasons.

Sassoli thinks the security fear is irrational.

“They are more dangerous in Syria than in a Swiss prison,” he says, because in Switzerland it is harder to escape and the political situation is stable, whereas the Kurdish area is a potential target for Syria and Turkey. He thinks repatriating nationals could be a good option if Western countries want to do “something special for their nationals”, but this option would have the disadvantage of being much further from the witnesses and the evidence.

“Active repatriation may only be examined for minors,” Swiss Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told “In this regard, the best interest of the child is decisive.”

The Swiss government has rejected calls to actively repatriate Islamic militants with Swiss nationality from Syria or Iraq.

What about an international tribunal?

The Swiss government has raised the possibility of helping to set up an international tribunal and says it supports creating such a court. It participated in a preliminary meeting on this in Stockholm earlier this month with eleven European Union countries, but Eltschinger said that “no decisions were taken”.

“Such a court would have to provide for the guarantees inherent to the rule of law, be appropriately organised, impartial and enjoy broad international support among Switzerland’s partners,” the foreign ministry spokesman said via e-mail.

He also cited disadvantages to support for such a court, including its complexity and the fact that such an operation is very expensive. In addition, he said, evidence may be difficult to access because it depends on cooperation with multiple states.

“Depending on the court’s location, there is a risk of a lack of independence and political influence,” Eltschinger said.

Could it be a UN tribunal? And where would the court be based?

Sassoli says a UN court is not going to happen, and a tribunal in a European country is also unlikely because of security concerns. He thinks another possibility for a treaty-based international or mixed tribunal would be in Iraq, because Iraq would agree to it, unlike Syria.

A Syria-based court “would be quite revolutionary,” says Sassoli, “because it would mean establishing a tribunal on the territory of a state which does not consent”.

Iraq is already holding trials of IS members, including some foreign ones. But there are concerns, particularly regarding the death penalty which exists in Iraq (and not on Kurdish territory). For example, 11 French nationalsexternal link have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to IS. But it is likely that Iraq would agree to a mixed tribunal according to international standards and no death penalty in exchange for significant Western help with expertise and infrastructure.

What crimes would the suspects be tried for?

Another issue is what kind of statute an international tribunal would have. For Switzerland and other European countries, simply belonging to IS is a crime, but Sassoli says that for credibility an international court should try suspects for war crimes. And in terms of international standards, it should also try everyone involved in the conflict on an equal basis, i.e. not just foreign fighters and not just IS.

“Everyone – the Syrians, the Iraqis, the foreigners – has the same right to judicial guarantees and if they committed war crimes they must be prosecuted.”

Who has a right to try IS suspects?

The Kurdish authorities are appealing for international support to conduct trials under their own justice system and have repeatedly stressed that they lack the resources to secure and care for such a high number of dangerous detainees. Kurdish representative Khaled Issa, who participated in the Geneva conference, told Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA that the Kurds’ self-administration had a right to try IS suspects because “they were arrested on our territory, they committed their crimes on our territory and the victims are our families and infrastructure”.

But helping the Kurdish authorities to improve their justice system and prisons would constitute a kind of recognition for them, which is delicate.

“From the point of view of Syria, but especially of Turkey, these are terrorists and rebels,” says Sassoli. “Establishing a criminal tribunal is not like establishing a health clinic. In the public’s perception, this is something done by states.”

Source: What should be done with foreigners who joined Islamic State?

Just 1000 third-generation foreigners apply for Swiss passport under easier citizenship rules

Interesting explanations of the restrictions responsible for the relatively low take-up:
Only a small percentage of the estimated 25,000 third-generation foreigners who can now take advantage of rule changes that make it easier for them to obtain Swiss citizenship have done so to date, but the current requirements may be partly to blame, a report published on Tuesday suggests.

Third-generation foreigners are those who were born in Switzerland and may have spent their lives here but who do not have Swiss citizenship because their parents and grandparents did not.

In 2017, the Swiss public voted in a referendum to allow this group to access to facilitated (or simplified) naturalization– a far simpler citizenship process usually reserved for the foreign spouses and children of Swiss citizens.

In February last year, the news rules came into effect.

However, a new report (here in French) published by the Federal Commission on Migration (FCM) shows just 1,065 third generation foreigners have applied for citizenship under the new rules so far, while 309 have already obtained the Swiss passport.

Eighty percent of applicants came from four countries – Italy, Turkey, Kosovo and Spain, according to the report.

Meanwhile, two thirds of the applications came from just six cantons, five of which are considered to have restrictive citizenship processes (Aargau, St Gallen, Solothurn, Thurgau and Basel).

The report had allowed applicants to sidestep restrictive cantonal policies, its authors said.

Parents school requirement as a legal obstacle

However, the FCM also recognised that the current rules for facilitated naturalisation for third-generation foreigners made it difficult for some applicants – specifically the requirement that they prove their parents had completed five years of compulsory schooling in Switzerland.

The FCM noted that this requirement did not match up to the immigration reality of many of Switzerland’s third-generation foreigners. The commission said that many of these people’s grandparents had come to Switzerland as seasonal workers and had only brought their children to the country when they had secured a residence permit.

As a result, many parents of potential candidates for facilitated immigration had not attended five years of school in Switzerland. However, many had completed professional training here.

The FCM recommended that the rules be changed to reflect this situation, with that professional education being recognised in place of the five years of compulsory schooling.

The commission also called on communes and cantons to do more to encourage third-generation foreigners to take out Swiss citizenship.

A flop?

Geneva newspaper Tribune de Genève labelled the results of the first year of the rule changes a “flop” but the woman behind the initiative, Ada Marra, whose grandparents emigrated to Switzerland in the 1960s, told Swiss news agency SDA she wasn’t disappointed at all.

She said the figures indicated that their was “a real need” in cantons with more restrictive citizenship policies.

The military service issue

Under the rules, only third-generation foreigners under the age of 25 can apply for facilitated citizenship. This was a proviso added in by parliament over fears people could shirk their military service obligations by only applying for citizenship after that age – though those currently aged 26-35 will be able to apply if they do so in the first five years of the new system.

Source: Just 1000 third-generation foreigners apply for Swiss passport under easier citizenship rules

Switzerland: Mistrust of Islam nearly three times higher than negative views of muslims

Interesting trend and distinction between Islam the faith and Muslims the people:

Every two years, Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office compiles a survey of attitudes towards people of different race, religion and nationality. The survey entitled: living together in Switzerland, asks a wide range of questions covering attitudes held towards different people and experiences associated with those differences.

More than 3,000 permanent residents of Switzerland between the ages of 15 and 88, selected at random across Switzerland’s main regions, were asked a series of questions. Those questioned included Swiss citizens and foreign nationals.

One group of questions, which looks at attitudes towards muslims, shows a large difference between how the population views the faith compared to it’s followers. In 2018, 29% said they mistrusted Islam, while 11% said they held a negative view of its followers.

The survey also looked at attitudes towards the jewish community. 9% said they held a negative view of this group. There was no separate question on attitudes towards the jewish faith.

Negativity towards muslims in Switzerland has declined since 2016. In 2016, 14% said they held a negative view of them. In 2018, the figure was 11%.

On the other hand the percentage declaring negativity towards the jewish community increased from 8% in 2016 to 9% in 2018.

In line with these trends, support for negative stereotypes of jewish people rose between 2016 and 2018 while it fell for muslims. The percentage saying the negative stereotype of muslim people, defined as fanaticism, aggressivity, oppression of women and non-respect of human rights, applied strongly and systematically fell from 16.8% to 13.7%, while the percentage saying the stereotype of jewish people, defined as greed, being too exclusive, thirst for power and political radicality, applied strongly and systematically rose from 11.9% to 12.5% – the report cautions against reading too much into the stereotype figures because of the limited number of characteristics included and the high percentage of respondents not answering the question.

Religious discrimination was ranked the fifth most frequent form of discrimination in Switzerland. First was discrimination based on nationality. 58% said they’d experienced this. Next were language or accent (27%), gender (19%), professional status (18%) and religion (15%). Skin colour (15%), socio-economic group (14%), age (13%), political opinion (12%) and ethnicity (11%) completed the top ten.

Source: Mistrust of Islam nearly three times higher than negative views of muslims

Swiss immigration rises again as ties with EU face test

The ongoing tension in Switzerland over immigration and sovereignty, even if the bulk is from European countries:

Immigration into Switzerland rose again last year, taking the foreign population further above 2 million as the wealthy country’s open-door policy for Europeans faces a right-wing challenge.

Neutral Switzerland allows free movement of people from the European Union and EFTA members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in return for enhanced access to the EU’s single market. Far-right activists complain this has swamped Switzerland with foreigners who now make up a quarter of the population.

The Swiss People’s Party and anti-EU AUNS group are readying a binding referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy that would cancel the free-movement accord with the EU if talks to end the practice do not bear fruit within a year.

The Swiss government opposes this, calling instead to preserve free movement as an essential part of ties with the EU, Switzerland’s biggest trading partner and lifeblood for its export-reliant economy.

No date for a vote has been set yet.

Statistics released on Friday showed net immigration of EU/EFTA citizens rose by nearly 31,000 people in 2018, marginally more than in 2017.

Overall immigration – which is steered by quotas for other foreigners and temporary limits on some Balkan members of the EU – increased 2.9 percent to nearly 55,000 people.

That meant nearly 2.1 million foreigners – more than two-thirds of them from the EU and EFTA countries – lived in Switzerland at the end of last year.

Switzerland is wrestling with its approach to EU ties. Brussels wants a new treaty that would have the Swiss routinely adopt single-market rules and give EU citizens the same benefits that they get when living in EU member countries.

The Swiss government has launched domestic consultations to try to forge consensus on its response, but opposition from the right wing and normally pro-Europe left concerned about sacrificing Swiss sovereignty have left the outcome in doubt.

Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

Most aspects of citizenship procedures are administered at the cantonal level with considerable variation between cantons:
Swiss citizenship doesn’t come cheap. While the cost of filing an application with federal authorities is relatively low (100 Swiss francs for an adult, or 150 francs for a couple), cantonal and communal authorities also charge non-refundable administrative fees which can seriously mount up.

Those administrative fees can vary depend on factors including age, place of birth, and marital status, but also differ significantly depending on place of residence as a new study carried out by Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche shows.

This is despite attempts to bring these administrative costs in line across the country back in 2006.

The study reveals that administrative costs can range from 500–1,600 francs in the canton of Jura to 1,800–3,000 francs in Fribourg, depending on which commune you live in.

Costs in other cantons include 550 to 800 francs in canton Vaud, 1,000 francs in Valais and a fixed rate of 1,250 francs for adults over 25 in Geneva.

For the canton of Zurich, the cost is listed on the cantonal homepage as 1,200 francs for foreign-born adults aged over 25. However, the canton also notes there are additional cantonal costs to be factored in. According to Le Matin Dimanche, the fees in Zurich total 1,700 francs.

Contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, authorities in Fribourg said there was no political motivation behind the high administrative costs associated with citizenship in that canton. A spokesperson said costs of individual applications were calculated based on actual costs incurred.

The office of Swiss price watchdog, Stefan Meierhans, is now looking into the matter.

Source: Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

Brit denied Swiss citizenship after ‘failing raclette question’ – The Local

Amusing but absurd (except for Lewis). Illustration of the perils of having local communities conduct interviews:

A British citizen has been denied the Swiss passport because he incorrectly answered several questions at a citizenship interview – including one about the origins of the cheese dish raclette.

In mid-March, Lewis, a 43-year-old British citizen, attended a citizenship interview at his local town hall in Freienbach in the canton of Schwyz, where he has lived since 2011.

Read also: Swiss passport named fifth ‘most powerful’ in the world

Lewis had been told in advance that the meeting would be “relaxed talk”. He had already completed the mountain of paperwork necessary for his citizenship application and had passed a demanding written test in early 2017, achieving a score of over 80 percent.

The Brit also grew up in Switzerland. He attended a local school in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, speaks fluent French and German, and understands Swiss German. Until recently he even worked in that most Swiss of all industries: finance.

“I feel Swiss – very much so. This is my home,” he told The Local on Monday.

But the interview in March proved to be a gruelling experience as he and his six-year-old son George – whose mother is Russian – were interrogated for an hour by around eight people from the local citizenship committee.

“My son passed with flying colours, but I got some questions about politics wrong and one about where raclette [a cheese dish from the canton of Valais] comes from,” said Lewis.

Among the political questions Lewis didn’t answer correctly was one about direct democracy and another about Switzerland’s system of part-time politicians. He also failed to identify the ingredients of capuns, a dish from the canton of Graubünden made with chard, dried meat and noodle dough.

These incorrect answers were enough to see both his and his son’s citizenship applications rejected and his outlay of 3,200 francs forfeited.

“The irony is they gave my son a present at the end of the interview – a fridge magnet with the commune’s coat of arms,” Lewis noted wryly.

Lewis admits he was probably distracted during the interview because he had just opened his new coffee shop in Zurich the day before. But he also expressed his frustration about the citizenship process.

“I had already passed the written test and shown I understand the Swiss political system and society so I don’t know why they were testing me again at the interview,” he said.

“From day one, when I went to pick up the forms, there was a great degree of animosity, with the woman at the town hall speaking to me very loudly and very quickly in Swiss German. You are dealing with people who want to make things difficult for you,” the banker-turned barista said to The Local of the citizenship application process.

“The fact that I had my six-year-old son next to me during the interview is also indicative of the degree of interrogation,” he added.

Lewis was keen to stress he respects how things are done in Switzerland and lives by the rule of ‘when in Rome’. But he also said that the process had affected him at an emotional level.

“I respect the laws of this country. I am a business person living in Switzerland. I pay taxes here and now I employ Swiss people. But it all seems a little bit arbitrary. I think they are looking for signs of non-integration,” he explained.

“Now I find myself thinking: ‘What do I say to my son? And what am I to this country?”

Lewis also believes there is a broader issue at stake: “This affects a lot of people and is a reflection on society. Do you want people to integrate or do you want to make it too painstaking and expensive for them?” he asked.

“I didn’t want to go public but I am not an isolated case. There must be lots of other people who were just as shocked as I am when they failed the test but we don’t know their stories,” Lewis told The Local.

via Brit denied Swiss citizenship after ‘failing raclette question’ – The Local

A third of Switzerland’s population mistrusts Islam, according to survey

Some interesting data:

The survey, which questioned 3,000 people across Switzerland, was designed to take the pulse of multicultural coexistence in Switzerland, a nation which is home to people of more than 190 nationalities and more than 10 religious groups. The survey covered permanent residents in Switzerland and wasn’t confined to Swiss nationals.

Overall, 36% said they could be bothered by the presence of people of a different nationality, religion, skin colour, language, or lifestyle.

At the same time, 66% recognized racism as an important social problem.

On a daily basis, foreign languages bothered those surveyed more than race, nationality or religion. Differences in nationality or skin colour bothered 6% of those surveyed, compared to 10% for religion and 12% for language. These annoyances were felt most in professional life.

Beyond annoyance, 14% claimed to be fearful of foreigners. Fear wasn’t reserved exclusively for foreigners. 4% were afraid of Swiss.

When questioned regarding religion, Muslims were viewed most negatively. 14% voiced hostility towards Muslims, compared to 8% towards Jews.

The survey made an important distinction between Islam and its followers. The percentage mistrusting Islam, as opposed to followers of the religion, was 33%, a figure far higher than the 14% voicing hostility towards Muslims.

The survey also questioned those on the receiving end of discrimination. In 2016, 27% of the population said they had experienced discrimination over the last five years. Among this group, 54% said the discrimination was based on nationality, particularly when job hunting.

Source: A third of Switzerland’s population mistrusts Islam, according to survey