The authorities in the central town of Emmen have placed a moratorium on processing any new naturalisation requests, following harsh criticism from within Switzerland and abroad of its system of allowing residents to vote on citizenship applications.This content was published on March 22, 2000 - 18:18
The authorities in the central Swiss town of Emmen have placed a moratorium on processing any new naturalisation requests, following harsh criticism from within Switzerland and abroad of its system of allowing residents to vote on citizenship applications.
The authorities have reacted to the criticism by suspending the applications of another 250 foreigners living in Emmen, in canton Lucerne. They will now have to wait at least until next year for a decision on their hopes of obtaining a Swiss passport.
The decision comes only ten days after applications by nearly 50 people from the former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland and Turkey were rejected in a referendum. Eight Italians were the only foreign residents whose applications were approved by local voters.
The authorities in Emmen said they will 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.
But according to Carlo Herbst of the Social Democrats, fear of foreigners is a recent phenomenon in Emmen. Economic recession in the early 90s hit the town hard. Unemployment rose to nearly 8 per cent, the highest rate in central Switzerland. At the same time, the town's foreign population grew to account for 26 per cent of the population, with a majority coming from the former Yugoslavia.
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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