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Number of racist incidents at eight-year low

Rightwing extremist graffiti covers the walls of a public toilet in Lucerne Keystone

The number of racist incidents in Switzerland has fallen to its lowest level since 1997, according to the Swiss Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism.

This content was published on January 23, 2005 - 15:09

Last year, the non-governmental body recorded 96 racist incidents, down from 111 in 2003. Verbal attacks accounted for 24 cases.

Hans Stutz, who compiled the report, said the drop was a direct result of a 2003 Federal Court ruling that citizenship applications could not be decided by public ballot.

Until then several cantons had been using secret ballots to decide whether to accept or reject citizenship applications, a policy which critics said led to discrimination.

Last year, five naturalisation requests in Switzerland were rejected on racist grounds, the foundation said, down from 23 the year before.

The number of rightwing extremist marches and gatherings also dropped last year, according to the foundation, from 22 in 2003 to 18.

Discrimination

But the report noted an increase in cases of discrimination – 11 last year, up from four the year before.

Stutz gave the examples of a dark-skinned nurse being turned down for a job, and someone being refused entry to a bar on racist grounds.

The number of physical attacks recorded last year also increased – from eight to 14. No racially motivated murders were included in last year’s report.

Stutz cautioned that although the Federal Court ruling meant that fewer citizenship applications were being rejected on racist grounds, it was becoming more difficult for foreigners to become naturalised.

Since the court ruling in summer 2003, no foreigners have been naturalised in the town of Emmen, which had previously used secret ballots.

The people of Emmen, in canton Lucerne, won the right to vote on citizenship applications in 1999. Between then and 2003, 97 applications were rejected at the ballot box.

The Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism was founded in 1989 by Sigi Feigel, a prominent member of Switzerland's Jewish community.

“The Chronology of Racist Acts in Switzerland” has been compiled every year since 1992. The largest number of racist acts – 143 - was recorded in 1999.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to the Federation against Racism and Anti-Semitism:
In 2004, 96 racist incidents were recorded.
In 2003, 111 cases were reported.
In 1999, there was a record number of reported racist acts - 143.

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In brief

In October 1999, the Zurich branch of the rightwing People's Party submitted a proposal calling for naturalisation requests to be decided by popular ballot.

In summer 2003, the Federal Court ruled that this procedure was unconstitutional, and said reasons should be given when requests are turned down.

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