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Government rules out end to deportations

Two illegal immigrants stand outside St Paul's church which demonstrators occupied for 77 days

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss justice minister has ruled out halting the deportation of illegal immigrants as foreign workers seeking residency planned to hold a demonstration in Fribourg.

"Each amnesty begets another and the government does not intend to embark on this path," Ruth Metzler said in several newspaper interviews.

Metzler criticised the way cantonal authorities were handling cases of illegal immigrants. Although many requests for permission to stay in Switzerland had been rejected, she said local authorities had failed to evict them.

It is unrealistic to conceive of a Swiss society without clandestine workers, Metzler said, but continued that Switzerland was working with its neighbours to come up with ways to prevent illegal labour.

But immigrants are demanding an end to deportations, equal working conditions, fair salaries, and social cover for all foreign workers in Switzerland, as well as an extension of collective bargaining agreements.

Last month a group of illegal immigrants and their supporters vacated St Paul's church in Fribourg after occupying it for 12 weeks. The immigrants left the building before the police moved in and took up residency in an arts centre in the city.

The federal authorities have ruled out any kind of blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants. Some 300,000 people are thought to be living illegally in Switzerland, many of them holding down jobs.

A recent survey showed that 60 per cent of French-speaking Swiss support granting residency status to illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in Switzerland for several years.

swissinfo with agencies

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