Both houses of parliament have rejected a proposal by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party to perform systematic checks on people crossing the Swiss border.
Thursday’s special parliamentary debate on immigration was brought about by the People’s Party with the argument that current border checks under the Schengen zone system are no longer effective enough to guarantee Switzerland’s security. Therefore, the party had argued for systematic checks to be carried out on everyone crossing the border into Switzerland.
Currently, under the Schengen agreement, people are allowed to travel more or less freely among countries in the zone without systematic identity checks.
As the minister in charge of immigration and refugee matters, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga came under fire from People’s Party members during the debate. However, parliamentarians from other parties defended her leadership, among them a representative from the Green Party who said she and her team were on the “right track”.
In the end, all parties except the People’s Party deemed systematic border checks “unrealistic”, arguing that such checks had never been done. Even before Schengen, they argued, only 5% of people crossing the border had been checked.
After the Senate rejected the People’s Party border checks proposal, the House of Representatives followed suit on Thursday with 111 votes to 73 and three abstentions. The lower chamber then accepted immigration-related motions from other parties, one aimed at supporting Italy and Greece in accommodating the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have crossed into their countries.
The other motion approved by the House of Representatives calls on cabinet to commission a report on the economic effects of Switzerland’s being part of the Schengen zone.
The House said no to a proposal to re-introduce the possibility to demand asylum at Swiss representations abroad and also rejected an initiative to only offer temporary protection to asylum seekers from Eritrea in future.
swissinfo.ch and agencies