Special site for foreign nomads near Bern

Caravan grounds for travellers are rare in Switzerland. The new site near a main motorway is specifically for non-Swiss nomads. © Keystone/Str

Voters in canton Bern have agreed a controversial plan to create a special caravan site for non-Swiss nomads transiting through the country.

This content was published on February 9, 2020 - 15:27

Official results show a majority of 53.5% of voters on Sunday gave the green light for a CHF3.3 million ($3.4 million) credit previously adopted by the cantonal parliament.

The decision was challenged to a public vote by the youth chapter of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.

The plan foresees the installation of a permanent site, including sanitary installations, for about 180 members of the non-Swiss Roma and Sinti communities next to a major motorway some 15km west of the capital, Bern.

Opponents, from the nearby village of Wileroltigen, have argued that the canton was undermining the local autonomy by imposing the camp site.

Supporters said such a site for up to 36 transiting caravans could prevent further disputes about the illegal occupation of farmland by travellers.

In 2017, some 500 travellers with 200 caravans temporarily settled near the village, fueling fears of escalating tensions with the local residents.

The ethnic Yenish and Sinti/Marouche communities are recognised as national minorities in Switzerland but not the Roma group.

However, the communities in the country have long criticised the lack of designated areas for nomadic people notably for the winter season.

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