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People of Emmen more generous to foreigners

Emmen passports swissinfo.ch

The people of the town of Emmen, canton Lucerne, who faced international criticism last year after turning down the citizenship applications of 48 foreigners, voted on Sunday to accept the naturalisation of 22 new applicants.

This content was published on June 10, 2001 - 18:53

The people of Emmen decided to approve 13 applications, covering 22 long-term foreign residents from Croatia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Britain and Germany.

"I am very proud about this election result," said the mayor, Peter Schnellmann. "I hope this means the end to negative headlines on Emmen's naturalisation process."

The issue of nationality is decided at community level in Switzerland, but Emmen is one of the few towns to put it to a ballot.

Analysts say that after the unfavourable publicity that Emmen received last year, the town council was careful to process the 22 most "acceptable" applicants this time - all of whom had been thoroughly scrutinised by Emmen's nationality committee - from a list of about 300 who are waiting to be approved.

When Emmen held a nationality vote last year, only eight out of 56 applications were approved, and no one from the Balkans was accepted. The 56 applicants had, however, satisfied all of Switzerland's legal requirements for nationality, including length of residence in the country, and competence in the local language.

The case placed Emmen in the headlines both inside and outside Switzerland, with its voters being accused of racism.

Among the features criticised last year was a brochure listing applicants' particulars, including their pictures, ages, jobs, hobbies, and their reasons for wanting to become Swiss. The brochure was used again used for the latest applicants.

They were also invited to attend open meetings organised by local political parties, where they faced questioning about their reasons for wanting to become Swiss.

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