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Naturalisation debate Citizenship helps immigrants integrate says study

The long waiting period for Swiss citizenship is a barrier to integration according to the researchers


A study based on past Swiss citizenship decisions concludes that naturalisation accelerates political integration. The researchers suggest that lowering the stringent citizenship requirements could accelerate integration process. 

The studyexternal link led by researchers from the University of Zurich surveyed 768 immigrants who were either narrowly accepted or rejected for Swiss citizenship through the controversial secret ballot system that was in place in some German-speaking municipalities between 1970 and 2003. Under this system, citizens in the same municipality could vote to accept or reject a citizenship application based on a voting leaflet containing information on the applicants. 

The results reveal that immigrants who became Swiss citizens by a narrow margin over 15 years ago are better integrated than those who were narrowly rejected. The narrowly naturalised group had the same level of political knowledge and participation as those of Swiss born nationals. For example, their turnout in the last parliamentary elections was 58%, compared to 52% for Swiss born nationals. 

"Our study shows that naturalisation promotes social and political integration in the long term. The earlier a person receives citizenship, the greater the positive effect," said study author Dominik Hangartner. 

The research also showed that the effect of naturalisation was also more pronounced among marginalised groups like those of Turkish or Balkan origin, immigrants born abroad, and those with lower education levels. The researchers’ conclusions raise questions about whether Swiss citizenship should be perceived as a reward for integration instead of a facilitator. 

“Migrants have to wait twelve years for naturalisation, a long time compared to other European countries,” said Hangartner. “Our study shows that a reduction of this waiting period would promote integration, and this would have a positive impact on society as a whole." 

On Tuesday, the Swiss Statistical Office revealed that the Swiss population increased by 1.2% in 2014. The number of Swiss nationals increased by 37,000 of which 32,800 were due to naturalisations alone.

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