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Swiss told to value young immigrants

Linguistic proficiency and political rights would help young immigrants integrate

(Keystone)

A government advisory commission has called for a radical overhaul of the treatment of young foreigners in Switzerland.

It has issued a series of recommendations aimed at improving their negative image and integrating them better into Swiss society.

In its 80-page report published on Tuesday, the Federal Commission for Youth stressed that the basic rights of young foreigners were being ignored. It called for them to be granted special legal status.

"We must allow these young people to develop a long-term perspective," said the Commission's Marian Nolde.

The panel of experts found that youngsters from non-Swiss backgrounds - with their own set of skills and talents - could play a more active role in society.

"While many important steps are being carried out to ensure that children and youth are being integrated, we have come across a stumbling block in the dialogue between cultures," said Leo Brücker-Moro, the Commission's president.

The Commission found that linguistic proficiency played an important part in integration. Members said children should be given lessons in the relevant federal language immediately after arriving in Switzerland.

Other proposals include giving young foreigners political rights identical to their Swiss contemporaries, as a way of including them in the political process.

Education

The Commission also wants all young immigrants - regardless of their residential status - to have access to further education courses and apprenticeships.

The government body is proposing a social framework, which would allow representatives from immigrant and Swiss communities to bring their concerns, suggestions and resources to the table.

It said the Swiss authorities should be obliged to carry out integration projects in a transparent way.

But the integration of young foreigners was a two-way process, said the panel. Immigrants to Switzerland would be expected to steep themselves in Swiss culture and to respect the law.

Brücker-Moro also believes that the parents of these youngsters have an important part to play in the integration process.

"It can be a decisive factor that the parents speak the language of the area they live in - this means they can support the integration of their children," he said.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss have a poor perception of immigrant children and youth.

To remedy the situation, a government commission has put forward proposals.

These include political rights and special legal status for the youngsters concerned.

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