Around 2,500 people have demonstrated in the Swiss town of Emmen against racism and an initiative to limit the number of foreigners living in Switzerland to 18 per cent.This content was published on September 17, 2000 - 12:14
During the protest, which lasted several hours, local politicians and trade union representatives called for electoral rights for foreign residents, a better naturalisation process and an end to forced repatriation of refugees.
Police were obliged to intervene briefly to keep protesters and skinheads apart.
Emmen is a flashpoint of racial controversy because of the manner in which naturalisation of foreign citizens is carried out: Emmen's Swiss residents vote on who deserves a Swiss passport based on candidates' personal details.
The demonstration was organised by various groups, including the Green Party, and is being headed by "Phase 1" - a group of left-wing radicals. It comes just days before a referendum scheduled for September 24 in which the Swiss will decide whether to limit the number of foreigners in the country to 18 per cent.
A national demonstration against xenophobia, which was to be held in Berne on Saturday, was cancelled only a few days in advance with organisers saying that the star guests, Tina Turner and Phil Collins, could not make it.
Emmen's Social Democrats, meanwhile, took a conscious decision not to take part in the public show of solidarity with Switzerland's foreign population. They argued that "Emmen is being used as the embodiment of racism" and that such a stylised campaign would even further stoke ethnic tensions there.
swissinfo with agencies
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