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Illegal immigrants stage new protest at Fribourg art centre

Some of the immigrants wait anxiously outside the art museum in Fribourg


A group of around thirty illegal immigrants have begun occupying a centre for contemporary art in the city of Fribourg in a bid to secure residency rights in Switzerland.

The group had previously taken part in an 11-week protest at a Fribourg church, which was brought to an end on Friday night following police intervention.

Michel Ritter, director of the art complex, said the occupation of the building by the group had so far gone "without a hitch" and that a forthcoming exhibition of paintings would go ahead as planned.

The federal authorities have refused to offer general amnesty to the protesters on the grounds that such a move would encourage more illegal immigrants to come to Switzerland.

The interior minister, Ruth Metzler, said last Wednesday that even though the government rejected blanket amnesty, Swiss law did allow the authorities to review individual dossiers on a case by case basis.

The dossiers of 30 illegal immigrants based in canton Geneva were recently forwarded to the government. Seventeen have so far been accepted and the applicants given the right to stay in Switzerland for at least one year.

But Gaëtan Zurkinden, a supporter of the Fribourg collective and coordinator of the recent church protest, rejected the government's stance, telling swissinfo that a major demonstration was now being planned to raise public awareness of the immigrants' situation.

"The next step for us is a big demonstration on September 15th with trade unions and other organisations from all over Switzerland," Zurkinden said.

Coordinators of the collective say they plan to establish ties with other groups staging similar protests in other parts of French-speaking Switzerland.

"We will continue to keep in contact with the other collectives," Zurkinden said, "and plan to build up a much bigger national movement."

swissinfo with agencies

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