Voters in canton Bern have decided to ban foreigners with a criminal record and those benefiting from welfare payments from getting Swiss citizenship.
Nearly 56% of voters approved a proposal by the youth chapter of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. The promoters had argued it was too easy to obtain a Swiss passport.
Most other parties as well as the government recommended rejection of the proposal, saying it was an unnecessary rule and violated previous legislation.
There are even doubts as to whether the initiative is legal. Nenad Stojanovic, a naturalisation expert at the University of Zurich, told the 20Minuten newspaper on Monday that questions were raised of proportionality and non-discrimination.
“If you don’t naturalise someone because they committed a crime when they were 15, that breaches a fundamental principle of the state of law,” he said.
Bern is the first of the country's 26 cantons to approve tighter regulations.
The Swiss citizenship procedure is a three tier system at federal, cantonal and local levels.
At a nationwide level, reforms are under way in parliament. There are calls to reduce the eligibilty factor of minimum residence in the country from 12 to eight years and to introduce mandatory language courses to ease integration.
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