Official data on criminal convictions have re-kindled a political controversy about the expulsion of foreign criminal offenders from Switzerland.
The Federal Statistics Office on Wednesday published a revised set of figures about the deportation of convicted foreigners in 2017, following harsh criticism from political parties and cantonal prosecutors.
The government has also set up a working group on the issue, including representatives of the justice ministry and statisticians, the office announced.
The revised data put the rate of deportations at 69% - 13% up on the initial figures published on Monday.
A senior official told SRF public radio that the changes were the result of “an alternative interpretation of the catalogue of crimes.”
The initial data included all categories of convictions for fraud, he said. But the mandatory expulsion of foreign criminals only applies in cases of fraudulent social security and welfare benefit claims as well as tax evasion.
Swiss courts last year handed down a total of 933 verdicts that lead to the automatic deportation of the criminals. In 646 cases the expulsion was ordered. Judges used their discretion to abstain from issuing a deportation order in 287 cases, according to the latest statistics.
The conservative right Swiss People’s Party, which has an anti-foreigner agenda, lashed out at what it considers a “soft” application of the law following voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment in 2010. It tried to challenge parliament’s legal application of the initiative, but its second attempt failed at the ballot box two years ago.
The cantonal prosecutors also criticised the official figures, saying neither the first nor the second set of statistics were reflecting the reality in the cantonal courts.
Critics have attacked the statistics office for failing to recognise the explosive impact of the figures, damaging the public reputation of its services, and mismanaging media communication.