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Asylum law opponents come out to fight

Former minister Ruth Dreifuss (centre) has come out strongly against the revised laws


A national committee opposed to revised Swiss asylum and foreigners' legislation has called for a "no" vote on September 24, deeming the two laws "cruel".

Voters will decide whether to accept measures including cutting social welfare payments to asylum seekers and a detention period of up to 18 months for foreigners awaiting deportation.

The committee, representing more than 30 political, church, aid and human rights organisations, said on Monday in Bern that the revised legislation was arbitrary and would exclude those in need.

"These laws bear the same stamp of fear and wariness of foreigners, and consider them only as people who may want to abuse the system," said Ruth Dreifuss, a former Social Democrat cabinet minister.

Dreifuss, who is leading the committee, added that the legislation was not compatible with Swiss democratic values and did not solve problems. "It will just increase the number of illegal residents."

Besides cutting social welfare and increasing detention periods, the revised asylum law would also rule out the granting of admission to asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds, but will make it easier for those accepted to work and to be joined by their families.

The committee is especially concerned that by forcing people to present identity papers within 48 hours of filing an asylum request or be rejected, the new law does not consider the reality of a person fleeing persecution in their homeland.

Its members consider that this is an unfair condition as most people who have been persecuted don't have official passports or travel documents. At best, these asylum seekers might even have recourse to fake identity papers.

Illegal residents

The new foreigners' law, which restricts immigration to citizens of countries that are members of the European Union or signatories of the European Free Trade Agreement, also ignores the realities of the job market, according to the committee.

It will only encourage more people to work illegally, and make it impossible for the 80,000 illegal residents already employed in Switzerland to ever get resident status.

Dreifuss said that both laws were incompatible with a coherent and humane migratory policy and did not respect the rights of those concerned. Refugees admitted to Switzerland would continue to be discriminated against under the revised foreigners' legislation.

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher rejected on Saturday accusations that the revision of the two laws ran counter to Switzerland's humanitarian traditions. Speaking at the annual congress of the Swiss Abroad, he also dismissed allegations that the legislation was too tough on refugees and foreigners.

The centre-right Radical Party also backed the new laws over the weekend, with delegates voting in favour of the legislation. The Christian Democrats and the People's Party delegates had already given their approval.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The revised asylum law besides cutting social welfare payments and increasing detention periods also refuses asylum on humanitarian grounds.

The new foreigners law simplifies admission procedures for EU and Efta citizens, but restricts residency to qualified workers from other countries.

Getting a work permit will also be more difficult, as will as getting permission for other family members to come to Switzerland.

Cabinet, a majority of parliament – centre-right Radical and Christian Democrats and the rightwing People's Party – are in favour of the revision.

But members of the centre-right and the left are fighting the change, forcing votes on both laws.

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