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Voting power Swiss village votes down hardline anti-asylum plan

Andreas Glarner, a parliamentarian of the conservative right People’s Party, had backed a plan to keep Oberwil-Lieli free of new asylum seekers by paying a charge


A 24-year-old language student has become a minor celebrity after leading a village revolt against a controversial policy to keep her Swiss commune free of new asylum seekers by paying a charge.

On Friday, voters in Oberwil-Lieli, 15km west of Zurich, rejected a proposal to pay a CHF290,000 ($280,000) charge instead of taking in asylum seekers. The community will instead accept six migrants following a protest and a feisty citizens' assembly. 

Andreas Glarner, local mayor and a newly-elected to the national parliament as a representative of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, had gone on television to extol the virtues of his plan to keep Oberwil-Lieli free of new asylum seekers.

Like many other communities, Oberwil-Lieli wanted to pay a fee to escape its obligation to take in new migrants. But Glarner also talked about tearing down empty buildings to make sure there would be no space to house them in the village. 

But villagers rebelled against the proposed policy, led by Johanna Gündel who started a protest group against the scheme.

At Friday’s meeting, a majority of citizens of the 2,200-resident village were unimpressed by a slideshow of explosive belts and burkas that preceded the debate and turned down the council’s proposal by 176 votes to 149. 

The vote against paying to exclude asylum seekers could yet be challenged by a local referendum. 

Below peaks

This autumn Swiss migration officials said they were anticipating 29,000 asylum applicants for 2015, an increase on recent years but below peaks in the 1990s. However, the State Secretariat for Migration warned the 26 cantons they might have to accommodate more arrivals. 

In an article in the NZZ newspaper on Monday, Peter Gomm, the head of the cantonal social affairs directors, said the refugee situation in Switzerland was “very tense”, with many cantons reaching their limits in terms of welcoming asylum seekers and providing accommodation. 

Gomm said it was hard to predict future figures but he said Switzerland should prepare for an emergency situation and at the current rate, 50,000 people could cross into Switzerland to seek asylum in 2016. with agencies

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