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

Switzerland puzzles over citizenship test after lifelong resident fails | The Guardian

Almost a parody:

Should foreign residents have to know how to recycle waste oil before they can apply for citizenship? Are people who shop at local corner shops more deserving citizens than those who frequent supermarkets? And what kind of sport is “hornussing”?

These are just some of the questions Switzerland is puzzling over after a 25-year-old failed the notoriously tough Swiss citizenship requirements – even though she has lived in the country all her life, speaks fluently in the local dialect and had passed the written part of the exam with full marks.

Funda Yilmaz, who was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents and works as a draughtswoman in the town of Aarau, applied for citizenship after her Swiss fiancee had suggested that she should take a more active part in the referendums that make up the country’s unusual mix of direct and representative democracy.

“I was born here. I don’t know any other life,” she told a panel of six examiners at the interview which follows the written test. “I don’t have plans to emigrate either.”

Yet after two rounds of interviews and more than 100 questions, a jury of local councillors from the municipality of Buchs rejected Yilmaz’s application by 20 votes to 12, reasoning that she “lives in a small world and shows no interest in entering a dialogue with Switzerland and its population” – a verdict many have questioned after weekly news magazine Schweizer Illustrierte published a transcript of the interview.

The jury criticised Yilmaz for displaying “gaps” in her knowledge of the municipal recycling system and for not being able to name any local shops other than chain supermarkets such as Aldi.

Another complaint centred around her unfamiliarity with “typical Swiss sports”, such as Hornussen, an indigenous cross between baseball and golf, or Schwingen, a style of folk wrestling. Yilmaz had named skiing as a typical Swiss sport. “One could have a very long debate about what is typical and traditional,” she wrote in a letter complaining about her rejection.

Asked in the interview about her views of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Yilmaz had replied: “He is becoming more and more of a dictator.” In her letter, she added: “I was asked whether my parents found it difficult to accept my partner, who is not Turkish. My family is open and moreover I am not a practising Muslim. I have never visited in a mosque in my life, but have several times been to a church.”

Other questions chosen by the jury included “Do you like hiking?”, “Would you rather visit Geneva or the region around Lake Geneva?” and “What kind of fitness training do you do?”

Since the case emerged, there have been several calls for a reform of the naturalisation process, which is decided by municipal juries comprised of local residents rather than a centralised agency. “The arbitrary nature of the official process has rarely been so visibly on display,” wrote the Tagesanzeigernewspaper.

A number of cases have drawn attention to the arbitrary nature of the Swiss naturalisation process in recent months. In January this year a Dutch woman had her application turned down for a second time because local residents objected to her campaign against cowbells. And in May 2016, a Kosovan family who were long-term residents of the canton of Basel-Country had their application for citizenship opposed by the residents’ committee, in part because they wore jogging bottoms around town.

Switzerland Votes to Ease Citizenship for Third-Generation Immigrants – The New York Times

Good result:

The posters seen in several cities and provinces featured two very similar young women: both born in Switzerland, educated in Swiss schools, now in their 20s and working full time in Swiss jobs. They even share the given name Vanessa.

The point, though, was the crucial way they differ. One Vanessa is a Swiss citizen, while the other is not, and is locked in a lengthy and expensive process to obtain citizenship even though her family put down roots in Switzerland two generations ago.

The posters backed a government-sponsored measure that would ease the path to citizenship for third-generation immigrants like the second Vanessa. And on Sunday, the measure was approved in a nationwide referendum.

The outcome went against the recent tide of right-wing populism and anti-immigrant sentiment in much of Western Europe. Just over 60 percent of votes were in favor, including majorities in 17 of the country’s 23 electoral cantons — a minimum of 12 are required to pass — despite a right-wing campaign that sought to stoke fears of Muslims infiltrating the country.

“We are quite surprised,” said Stefan Egli, a manager of Operation Libero, a politically independent group that campaigned in support of the initiative and organized the poster campaign featuring the two Vanessas, among others. Mr. Egli said he had thought the referendum would win the national popular vote, but he worried that more of the rural cantons would oppose the change.

Swiss law typically requires foreigners to be residents of the country for 12 years before applying for citizenship; after that they must undergo a series of tests and interviews to assess their suitability, and are judged by criteria that differ from one canton to another. Unlike the United States and some European countries, Switzerland does not grant automatic citizenship to children born on its soil.

The measure approved on Sunday will not change those basic rules, but will speed up and simplify the approval process, using uniform criteria, for foreigners under 25 whose parents and grandparents have permanent residence status in Switzerland. “These are people who are at home,” Simonetta Sommaruga, the federal justice minister, said in a statement explaining the government’s position on third-generation immigrants. “The only difference is they do not have a red (Swiss) passport.”

An assessment by Geneva University for the government’s department of migration found that just under 25,000 people could benefit from the changes. Most of them are Italian, it found, and nearly 80 percent are of European extraction.

Swiss Locals Deny Citizenship to ‘Annoying’ Vegan

Couldn’t resist sharing this – another example of identity issues (and having lived in Switzerland, cowbells are part of their identity if not a reason to reject an application for citizenship):

A community in Switzerland recently turned down a vegan’s request for Swiss citizenship because she “annoys” local residents and does not respect their traditions.

Nancy Holten, 42, applied for citizenship in Switzerland and faced no formal objections from municipal and cantonal authorities, but a local committee of residents, from the community of Gipf-Oberfrick in the canton of Aargau, has twice denied her application, according to the Local, a Swiss English-language news site.

In Switzerland, local communities often have a larger say in citizenship applications than the federal government.

Holten moved from her native Netherlands to Switzerland when she was eight years old and has children who hold Swiss citizenship. She is an outspoken vegan who regularly campaigns against cowbells, the noise from church bells, piglet racing, and other Swiss traditions, drawing the ire of locals.

Holten regularly does interviews with the press about her activism and views.

Much of the annoyance with Holten is not that she speaks her mind, but that she does so in such a public manner and draws negative attention to the local community.

One of Holten’s biggest targets are cowbells. She complains that the weight of the bell and the strap holding it hurts cows’ necks.

Source: Swiss Locals Deny Citizenship to ‘Annoying’ Vegan

Muslim Girls in Switzerland Must Attend Swim Classes With Boys, Court Says – The New York Times

Good in-depth report on the decision and the accommodations that were offered, along with other examples where European countries are inflexible on accommodation issues.

Overly rigid approach IMO:

In 2008, school officials in Basel, Switzerland, ordered a Muslim couple to enroll their daughters in a mandatory swimming class, despite the parents’ objections to having their girls learn alongside boys.

The officials offered the couple some accommodations: The girls, 9 and 7 at the time, could wear body-covering swimsuits, known as burkinis, during the swimming lessons, and they could undress for the class without any boys present.

But the parents refused to send their daughters to the lessons, and in 2010, the officials imposed a fine of 1,400 Swiss francs, about $1,380. The parents, Aziz Osmanoglu and Sehabat Kocabas, who have both Swiss and Turkish nationality, decided to sue.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the Swiss officials’ decision, rejecting the parents’ argument that the Swiss authorities had violated the “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court enforces.

“The public interest in following the full school curriculum should prevail over the applicants’ private interest in obtaining an exemption from mixed swimming lessons for their daughters,” the court found.

The case was the latest to pit freedom of religion against the imperative of social integration, and to raise the question of whether — and how much — a government should accommodate the religious views of Muslim citizens and residents, many of them immigrants.

The ruling could set an important precedent in other cases in which religious and secular values or norms come into conflict.

The decision comes as Europe has been struggling to integrate migrants, many from majority-Muslim countries where religious and social mores, particularly around gender and sexuality, can be at odds with liberal and secular norms of the societies where they have sought refuge.

Far-right political parties with anti-immigrant bents, from the National Front in France to the Danish People’s Party in Denmark and the Swiss People’s Party in Switzerland, have argued that too many Muslims have not managed to assimilate.

In May, the authorities in the canton of Basel-Landschaft — which is next to the canton of Basel-Stadt, where the swimming case occurred — ruled that two Syrian immigrant brothers, who studied at a public school in the small town of Therwil, could not refuse to shake their teacher’s hand on religious grounds. Their refusal to do so had provoked a national uproar.

The challenge of integrating immigrants has spilled over into culture, and, at times, helped fan a simmering culture war. In Denmark, pork meatballs and other pork dishes that are popular staples became part of a debate on national identity last year after the central Danish town of Randers voted in January to require public day care centers and kindergartens to include the meat on their lunch menus.

Supporters of the proposal said that serving traditional Danish food such as pork was essential to help preserve national identity. Critics said the proposal did nothing more than stigmatize Muslims, who had made no attempts to ban pork from school menus.

Germany was shaken during New Year’s Eve in Cologne in 2015 when young men, many of them of North African origin, committed sexual assaults during the street celebrations there. The attacks became an uncomfortable symbol of the challenges of integration in the country.

In France, the clash between secularism and religious conservatism came into sharp relief this summer when nearly 30 towns, mainly in the country’s southeast, introduced burkini bans, suggesting that the garments impinged upon French culture and way of life.

In the case of the swimming classes in Switzerland, the authorities ruled that lessons mixing boys and girls were an important part of the school curriculum; they did allow that the girls could apply for an exemption on religious grounds, but only if they had gone through puberty, which was not the case for the daughters of Mr. Osmanoglu and Ms. Kocabas.

The parents argued that even though the Quran does not require girls’ bodies to be covered until puberty, “their belief commanded them to prepare their daughters for the precepts that would be applied to them from puberty” onward, according to the court’s summary of the case.

The decision, by a chamber of seven judges, did not dispute that the denial of the parents’ request interfered with their religious freedom, but it emphasized that the need for social cohesion and integration trumped the family’s wishes. The court also noted that schools play “a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned,” and that, as such, ensuring the girls’ “successful social integration according to local customs and mores” took precedence over religious concerns.

The parents have three months to appeal the court’s decision. Representatives of the family could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

In Switzerland, politicians and civic groups across the political spectrum welcomed the ruling, calling it an important validation of the supremacy of secularism and the rule of law, even as some Muslims complained that it reflected growing intolerance for religious minorities.

“The swimming pool verdict unfortunately is what we expected,” Qaasim Illi, a board member of the Swiss Central Islamic Council, wrote on Twitter. “Tolerance toward the religious is diminishing throughout Europe.”