The Senate has come out against a proposal to automatically expel any foreign criminal, including those convicted of cheating welfare payments.
A majority clearly rejected on Thursday the initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. The Senate instead recommended approval of a counter-proposal which wants to limit expulsions to felonies.
“The initiative has serious shortcomings and makes false promises,” said Rolf Büttiker from the centre-right Radical Party.
He added however that the counter-proposal presented realistic measures to tackle a real concern of the population: crimes committed by foreigners.
A proposal mainly by the centre-left and some centre-right senators to declare the initiative null and void was dismissed by 28 to 13 votes.
The debate focused on issues including compatibility of the proposal with fundamental principles of international law and basic rights as well as respect of democratic decisions.
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said she saw many reasons to back the counter-proposal, but not to back the initiative.
The Senate last December postponed the debate following a ballot on a ban on the construction of minarets which voters approved in defiance of the government and a majority of parliament.
The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, still has to discuss the initiative before it is put to a nationwide vote.
Supporters collected 211,000 signatures for their initiative, which came in for international criticism over a controversial poster showing white sheep kicking out a black sheep.
The People’s Party ran a successful campaign with the poster ahead of the 2007 parliamentary election.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch