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Cabinet urges integration of foreigners

Blocher said it was time for concrete action on integration of foreigners

(Keystone)

The Swiss cabinet says that more needs to be done to improve the integration of foreigners, including better education.

The federal authorities will launch a pilot project in the next few weeks aimed at offering jobs to people who have refugee status.

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher said the government had given an interdepartmental working group the task of coming up with concrete measures by June next year.

At a media conference on Wednesday Blocher said there were many good things about Swiss integration policy, but it was also subject to a lot of "romanticism and morality".

"We have never really done it seriously, therefore we have achieved too little," he said.

In May the Federal Migration Office pointed out that Swiss and foreigners usually get along, but that young immigrants were more likely to be out of a job or to have left school early.

The report also stated that the most important factor for successful integration was access to jobs, but that many people had trouble finding work.

Currently 15-20 per cent of young people of foreign origin are without an apprenticeship while the unemployment rate among adult foreigners is 8.9 per cent, three times higher than among the Swiss.

Particularly affected are young people from the Balkans and non-European countries.

Foreigners are also more likely to depend on welfare aid and half of recorded offences are committed by non-Swiss.

Pilot project

In all, 80 per cent of recognised refugees are without work. From autumn a pilot project offering special "refugee apprenticeships" will be tested, which should help integrate them into the work market, according to Blocher.

The new working group, led by the Federal Migration Office, has been charged with providing an overview of what must be done to improve integration and suggestions as to how this can be achieved.

Not only government departments need to be involved, but also the country's 26 cantons and the local authorities, said a cabinet statement.

Blocher also took the opportunity to point out that the new tougher foreigners law, to be voted on next month in nationwide ballot, would help solve of these problems, as it was aimed at better integration.

"We won't give up if there is a no, but we would have a worse stating position," said the minister.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Around 15% of young foreigners do not finish apprenticeships. They run a higher risk of being unemployed or needing social security benefits.
25,000 young foreigners are unemployed, more than twice the number of young Swiss.
Half of recorded offences are committed by foreigners.
Only one fifth of recognised refugees of working age are employed.

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In brief

The Swiss are due to vote on a tougher foreigners and asylum law on September 24.

The foreigners' law aims to give preferential status to citizens from countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and increase integration.

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

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