Better integration of foreign population on cabinet agenda

One issue on the cabinet's agenda when it holds its first meeting of the New Year today directly affects one in every five people in Switzerland - its foreign population.

This content was published on January 11, 2000 - 10:07

One issue on the cabinet's agenda when it holds its first meeting of the New Year directly affects one in every five people in Switzerland - its foreign population.

Last October, parliament passed a law empowering the government to fund projects aimed at better integrating foreigners. But many Social Democrats and Christian Democrats accuse the government of dragging its feet. A federal commission has called for SFr15 million to fund projects at the regional level.

The president of the commission, Fulvio Caccia, says however that funding is not the main issue. He has threatened to resign from his post if the cabinet decides to make the federal police office for foreigners responsible for integration. "We've recommended that if the new integration bureau is to have any credibility, then it should be set up within the interior ministry, or at the very least, act autonomously within the justice and police ministry."

Caccia says Switzerland has not moved quickly enough to address the major demographic change in its foreign population. Traditional immigrant workers from Spain, Portugal and Italy - countries with similar languages and cultures -- have been replaced by immigrants from the Balkans, Asia and Africa. Caccia believes a greater investment is needed to integrate these people.

His views are echoed by Regine Aeppli of the Social Democrats. Aeppli says Switzerland could not survive without its foreign workforce. "They pay for our social security, they pay taxes, it's in our own interest to see that they are better integrated", Aeppli concluded.

Without federal financing, many cantons have had to slash spending for integration projects. Cities like Berne, Basel and Zurich have published recommendations but need federal money to implement the plans.

From staff and wire reports

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