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Government calls for better integration of foreigners

The government has unveiled a series of initiatives to help foreigners integrate

(Keystone)

The cabinet has issued a strong signal that integration, and not quotas, should be the cornerstone of Swiss policy towards foreigners. The move comes two months after voters rejected a proposal to restrict the number of foreigners in Switzerland.

Speaking in Bern on Thursday, the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, said urgent efforts were needed to make foreigners feel at home in their communities.

She said the government was committed to integrating non-Swiss residents and would work with the authorities from community level upwards to help that process.

She added that next year the government intended to spend SFr10 million ($5.5 million) to improve the integration of foreigners, who make up nearly 20 per cent of the population.

The government also pledged to present proposals in 2001 for easing the naturalisation procedure for young foreigners in Switzerland.

Metzler unveiled a series of projects to push the integration process forward, including helping mothers of small children learn a national language.

The government also announced its intention to set up a new information programme to help foreigners find employment and deal with the problems associated with living in a new country.

Walter Schmid, vice-president of the Federal Foreigners Commission, a government advisory body, said it was vital to involve foreigners in informal decision-making circles, such as neighbourhood groups, schools and local associations.

Switzerland's integration policy in the past year has been marked by an institutional dispute. The Foreigners Commission was hit by mass resignations in a row over funding and the question of whether the committee should be incorporated into the justice ministry.

Schmid told swissinfo that the conflict was necessary. "It is not the role of the commission to agree with everything. We had differences, and resolved most of them," he said.

swissinfo with agencies


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