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Initiative Maverick group pushes hardline anti-immigration agenda

The head of the initiative committee, Richard Koller, (centre) explaining the aims of his campaign


Opponents of the government’s immigration policy are making a new attempt at protecting domestic labour in Switzerland from foreign nationals.

A committee, led by a local member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, started collecting the necessary 100,000 signatures within the next 18 months to force a nationwide vote on the proposal.

“Politicians who are not willing to combat unemployment shows no respect to the people,” said Richard Koller, committee leader at a news conference in Bern on Wednesday.

He accused the government of willfully ignoring the potential risk of social unrest if Swiss residents can’t get jobs.

Parliament last December approved a reform of immigration law avoiding quotas on European Union immigrants but instead prioritising Swiss jobseekers. The decision angered rightwing conservative groups, accusing the government of watering down the result of a 2014 vote on immigration curbs.

The latest initiative wants to limit immigration if the unemployment exceeds 3.2% - the average level in the 1990s - and to suspend a bilateral accord with the EU on the free movement of people. Non-Swiss nationals with high salaries and highly-skilled specialists would be excluded from the restrictions as well those who graduated at a Swiss university or successfully completed an apprenticeship in the country.

The official joblessness rate in Switzerland peaked just below 4% over the past 15 years. It currently stands at 3.1%.

Little support

However, the initiative committee can’t count on support from the People’s Party or other major organisations.

The People’s Party and the conservative Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland plan to decide on an anti-immigration initiative of their own later this month.

In April, a committee failed to collect the necessary 50,000 signatures for a referendum, challenging a parliamentary decision on implementing controversial immigration restrictions for EU citizens approved by Swiss voters more than three years ago.


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