While most Swiss feel it’s important to help refugees, nearly half think Switzerland should close its borders – at least for the time being.
The Point de Suisse survey, conducted by artists’ collective com&com in collaboration with the University of Basel, polled 1,000 Swiss people from all over the country in July 2015. As reported in the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday, the survey results offer a glimpse of the nation’s political and social climate.
It also mirrors action on the ground. Switzerland's foreign ministry plans to send more financial aid to the Balkans to help deal with their influx of migrants after providing a small amount to help build a refugee camp by a town on Serbia's border, according to a report in NZZ am Sonntag.
Europe is grappling with its largest migrant and refugee crisis since World War II as an influx of people, many of them refugees from Syria, head by ship, trains and buses through Mediterranean routes trying to reach a better life in western Europe.
Austrian police said more than 70 people appeared to have suffocated in an abandoned truck during the past week, and another 200 were feared drowned from capsized boats off the coast of Libya. Over 300,000 have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, up from 219,000 in 2014, the UN refugee agency said Friday.
A number of the survey questions pertained to refugees. For example, 83% of those queried agreed that Switzerland should concentrate its aid efforts in crisis zones; 61% said the Swiss should play a leading role in humanitarian efforts; and 52% called for emergency aid in the Mediterranean.
And while 27% said that Switzerland could take in 40,000 refugees per year, 45% said Switzerland should temporarily close its borders; 64% said that too many refugees would bring the nation’s prosperity level down.
Switzerland has taken in several waves of refugees over the years, including Vietnamese in the 1970s, Sri Lankans in the 1980s and people from the Balkans in the 1990s. Today there are some 30,000 Eritreans living in Switzerland as either refugees or asylum seekers.
On the subject of migration, results were mixed – with 86% agreeing that Switzerland had been an immigrant country for a long time. Nearly 63% said that immigrants contributed to Switzerland’s prosperity, with 68% pointing out that foreigners did the jobs that the Swiss didn’t want.
While 51% said that highly-qualified foreigners were a threat to Swiss talent, 40% said Switzerland should only accept highly-qualified immigrants. And 70% said that without immigration, the Swiss national football team would be hopeless.
Other survey topics included the European Union, the environment and social policies. From September 2, the general public can participate in the Point de Suisse survey online.