Majority of Swiss vote to expel convicted foreigners
Switzerland’s Islamic Central Council said Monday that it would launch a push for the country to reverse its ban on minarets which was approved in a referendum a year ago.
Under the country’s unique direct democracy system, the far-right last year forced a referendum on banning the construction of new minarets after collecting a mandatory 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months.
The Islamic council now wants to use the same method to overturn that decision.
"If the minaret ban is to be lifted, it shall be done in the same way as it was introduced a year ago – that is, to submit a people’s initiative with the aim of removing the article from the Federal Constitution," said the council.
"The constitutional conditions of Switzerland do not allow any other possibility than that the minaret question shall be submitted to the people for vote a second time," it added in a statement.
The council said it planned to submit a draft of its initiative to authorities for approval by January.
Muslims account for just five percent of Switzerland’s population of 7.5 million people, and form the third largest religion group after the dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant communities, although just 50,000 are estimated to worship openly.
On Sunday, majority of Swiss voted to back the automatic expulsion of foreigners convicted of serious crimes, in the latest sign of growing hostility to immigration in the country.
Fifty-three percent of voters backed a proposal to automatically deport foreigners convicted of crimes including murder, rape or trafficking in drugs or people, according to results carried by Swiss television.
"I don’t regard this as a very good sign for our country," said Christian Levrat, head of the center-left Social Democrats who opposed the proposal.
Official figures show foreigners make up more than a fifth of Switzerland’s population of 7.7 million.
The expulsion initiative was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has mined increasing fear about immigration in recent years to become the country’s biggest political movement.
"We want those (foreigners) who live in Switzerland to stick to the conventions and rules of the game," said SVP leader Toni Brunner. He said the vote was a resounding "No" to abuses resulting from immigration.
Critics have said the SVP’s proposal could contravene international anti-discrimination treaties and the free movement of peoples under European Union law. Switzerland is outside the EU, but has accepted the bloc’s code allowing EU citizens to take up residence without special permission.
Under current law, decisions to expel foreigners convicted of serious crimes are made on a case-by-case basis.
A committee would draw up a draft law that minimized any conflict with Switzerland’s international obligations, the government said. The law would then be voted on by parliament.
Turnout on Sunday was 53 percent, above the usual 40 percent in Swiss referendums, Swiss television said.