Burglaries, robberies, rapes, stabbings – every single day newspapers are full of reports about crimes. Many Swiss no longer feel safe in their own country, and most of the offenders are of foreign origin. The implementation initiative now seeks to deport such offenders. It was launched to make up for the watered-down legislation parliament passed after the deportation initiative was accepted, says Gregor Rutz.
A quick look at crime statistics reveals interesting facts about crimes, some of them heinous. Foreign offenders account for 73% of burglaries, 61% of rapes and 58% of murders. In 2014, 73% of prison inmates did not have a Swiss passport; an interesting fact given that 24% of the Swiss population is of foreign origin.
The Swiss People’s Party’s deportation initiative is designed to address this problem. It calls for tighter measures that would lead to deportation and a ban on re-entry for foreign criminals convicted of certain crimes.
The initiative, launched in summer 2007, was accepted by the people and the cantons in 2010. At the same time, a counterproposal including a minimum penalty and a hardship clause was rejected in all cantons.
The mandate is clear: the Swiss people want consistent enforcement of our laws. Foreigners who have committed a serious crime endangering order and safety in our country should be expelled.
Currently, Swiss law governing foreigners designates that deportation is a matter for the migration police. This has led to an inconsistent and lax practice in the different cantons and has given judges a lot of room to manoeuvre.
The implementation initiative should definitely change that. In future, deportation should no longer be just a measure taken by migration police; it should be directly connected to the crime. This would definitely put an end to lax practices.
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In a nutshell: the deportation initiative, which has now become constitutional law, was designed to bring about a change in practice. The same criteria should be applied throughout Switzerland. Those convicted of a crime should be deported following the verdict – without the judge being able to undermine it.
Deportation initiative mandated by the people
It will always remain a mystery why the House of Representatives and the Senate included a hardship clause in the law even though the Swiss people were against it. Ruth Humbel, a member of the House of Representatives from the Christian Democratic Party, summed it all up during a debate in the House of Representatives in March 2015: the deportation initiative is “no longer just a demand by the Swiss People’s Party. It has become constitutional norm and is mandated by the Swiss people.” Implementation is required – whether parliamentarians like it or not. However, only a few months later the Christian Democrats and the Radical Party argued the opposite and together with the Social Democrats voted for implementation of a watered-down version of the initiative.
The fact is that the ‘hardship clause’, which allows for exceptions in every case, calls the central goal of the expulsion initiative – since agreed by parliament and laid down in the Swiss penal code – into question, rather than achieving the goal of tightening the law.
Graduated catalogue of offences
The implementation initiative aims to eliminate the weak points in parliament’s implementation legislation. It formulates provisions that stick closely to the wording of the deportation initiative. Articles from the implementation initiative can be directly applied and become part of transitional provisions in the Swiss constitution. So, if the Swiss people vote in favour of the implementation initiative, there will be no need for the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass legislation.
The catalogue of offences has clear gradations. Serious crimes, such as murder, grievous bodily harm, rape, robbery, etc. require immediate deportation.
Other crimes, such as minor bodily harm, unlawful detention and kidnapping, pornography, sexual acts with children, violence or threats against authorities and government officials, only require deportation if they are repeated.
With a conviction, all these crimes lead to deportation after a sentence is served. The old criminal code had a similar mechanism.
Abuse of the social welfare system is a newly defined offence and will be added to the catalogue. If serious and leading to a conviction, such an abuse will also lead to deportation. This should deter immigrants wanting to take advantage of our social welfare system.
High number of offenders
In 2010, during the referendum campaign, it was assumed that between 500 and 1,500 people would be deported yearly under the new initiative. But a justice ministry expert commission’s report later calculated that the actual number of offenders would be much greater. Based on the initiators’ catalogue of offences, around 16,000 foreign criminals would have to be expelled from Switzerland each year. Around 8,000 of them – basically, half – are living illegally in Switzerland. These are worrying figures.
This high number of crimes shows the importance of this initiative, and the 2014 numbers are just as high. If you add up all convictions to do with to the implementation initiative, more than 10,000 foreigners would have to be expelled from Switzerland every single year. Once again, this consistent and frighteningly high number shows how important the initiative is.
The implementation initiative brings about safety by enforcing the legal system, fighting crime committed by foreigners and preventing repeat offences. This means that the initiative is also important for Switzerland’s business sector. Being an attractive business and working location not only requires legal security, a favourable investment climate and good infrastructure. It also means guaranteeing public safety.
The implementation initiative is also important when it comes to migration. Everyone living in Switzerland must obey our rules. Any migrant wanting to come to our country must acknowledge this. In this way the implementation initiative also acts as a preventive measure when it comes to migration. Switzerland shouldn’t be a destination for criminal tourists.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.
Translated from German by Billi Bierling