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Government wants to streamline naturalisation

The Swiss government wants to ensure that the country's naturalisation rules for foreigners do not lead to discrimination. The justice minister, Ruth Metzler (pictured), said measures were needed to avoid arbitrary decisions based on racial prejudice.

This content was published on March 20, 2000 - 22:13

The Swiss government wants to ensure that the country's naturalisation rules for foreigners do not lead to discrimination. The justice minister, Ruth Metzler (pictured), said measures were needed to avoid arbitrary decisions based on racial prejudice.

Metzler's comments come in response to a controversial case in the town of Emmen, in canton Lucerne. A total of 56 requests for citizenship were put to the vote on March 12. The national origin of the applicants, many of whom were long-term residents or Swiss born, ranged from Italian, Polish, and Turkish, through to the former Yugoslav republics.

The voters of Emmen turned down all but the eight Italian applicants. Metzler said that this showed a dangerous tendency, already seen in similar votes in other towns. When national origin was the only reason for refusal, then this amounted to racial discrimination.

She said that while Switzerland's tradition of direct democracy should be respected, it was legitimate to ask whether democracy meant consulting the people about everything all the time. In the case of naturalisation, a better option would be to limit votes to choosing members of local naturalisation commissions.

The government, according to Metzler, had no intention of interfering in the role of local communities in conferring Swiss citizenship, but had nevertheless set up a working group to look at ways of modifying procedures. Changes could include setting up an appeal mechanism at the cantonal level. The working group was expected to report back by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the president of the federal commission on foreigners, Rosmarie Simmen, has called for citizenship to be granted automatically to second generation Swiss-born foreigners. She said in a press interview that they represented an important part of Switzerland's potential, and that the vast majority of cantons naturalised them successfully.

Simmen was appointed head of the federal commission on foreigners in February, after the resignation of her predecessor, Fulvio Caccia. She is due to deliver a report on integration in Switzerland at the end of the month.

swissinfo and agencies

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