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French-speaking Switzerland shows solidarity with foreigners in Emmen

The authorities in Lausanne have joined the city parliament in Geneva, by saying they are willing to naturalise 48 foreigners whose applications for citizenship were turned down by voters in the central Swiss town of Emmen, where they reside.

This content was published on March 23, 2000 - 17:23

The authorities in Lausanne have joined the city parliament in Geneva, by saying they are willing to naturalise 48 foreigners whose applications for citizenship were turned down by voters in the central Swiss town of Emmen, where they reside.

Geneva and Lausanne called on cantonal and federal officials to allow them to grant citizenship to the people, who are mainly from eastern Europe, the former Yugoslavia and Turkey, considering the exceptional circumstances. It is a largely symbolic gesture, intended to highlight opposition to the controversial naturalisation procedures used in Emmen.

The naturalisation bids were rejected ten days ago by voters in Emmen in a referendum. Emmen was harshly criticised because it appears voters based their decisions solely on the family names or countries of origin of the applicants.

On Wednesday, the authorities in Emmen placed a moratorium on processing any new naturalisation requests. They suspended the applications of 250 foreigners who will now have to wait at least until next year for a decision on their hopes of obtaining a Swiss passport.

Emmen officials said they would use the coming months to review the naturalisation process, which was put into voters' hands only last year. They also want to launch a public relations campaign to improve the image of foreigners in the community.

"Xenophobia is noticeable among a large part of the local population," said town councillor, Ruedi Lustenberger from the Radical Party.

Despite the criticism, the Emmen authorities point out that the naturalisation-by-referendum process is considered legal by the federal government. However, the government in Berne on Monday said it was reviewing the situation, and would consider introducing a right of appeal for foreigners whose requests are turned down.

swissinfo with agencies

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