After the sex attacks in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, officials in Lucerne, where it is currently carnival season, last week gave asylum seekers leaflets on what is considered acceptable behaviour. Some asylum seekers have responded, saying they feel discriminated against.
“We feel offended by your action,” wrote a group of refugees in an open letterexternal link to the Lucerne authorities, published in the Neue Luzerner Zeitung on Saturday. “You portrayed us as savages who need to be enlightened. By doing this, the authorities are pouring additional oil on the fire and provoking racism against us.”
Last week the Hirschpark asylum centre in Lucerne handed out leaflets specifically designed for foreigners. They pointed out, for example, that touching people, physical violence and insults are not allowed, and that men and women have equal rights.
Many of the asylum seekers say these rules go without saying. “Sexual attacks are a crime across the entire Middle East and in most of our countries. Sexual attacks are not a question of origin but of a lack of decency. They are committed by refugees and also by Europeans,” said the letter, which was co-written by Süleyman Özbayhan, a refugee who has lived in Switzerland for five years.
“The information campaign puts us under general suspicion. They’re lumping us all together, and that disturbs us,” Özbayhan told Swiss public television, SRF.
Other people said the campaign was splitting the population into two groups, with foreigners getting the leaflets and other residents not getting them. They suggested that if such guidelines were to be handed out, they should be handed out to everyone.
‘Trigger was Cologne’
The leaflet was commissioned shortly after the events in Cologne by Lucerne social services director Guido Graf, even though Lucerne hasn’t experienced any such incidents during past carnivals.
Graf, a member of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, said he was surprised by the letter, saying the pamphlet was aimed at everyone.
“The trigger was Cologne and feedback from the public. We acted preventatively, because we don’t want to have any problems during carnival,” he said.
Carnival has been running peacefully in Lucerne since Thursday.
swissinfo.ch and agencies