Trend towards harsher asylum law confirmed

Support for the pension scheme proposal appears to be waning

An opinion poll shows a clear majority of Swiss in favour of tougher asylum regulations and immigration rules, ten days ahead of a nationwide vote on the issues.

This content was published on September 13, 2006 minutes

A proposal to shore up the state old age pension scheme with profits from the Swiss National Bank appears to have lost public support, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Publication of the latest survey, carried out by the gfs Bern polling institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, comes before voters have the final say on the three issues on September 24.

It found that 61 per cent of those interviewed favoured tighter asylum rules, which were approved by parliament last year. A coalition of centre-left parties, aid organisations and churches have challenged the law in a referendum.

Twenty-eight per cent said they were opposed to the regulations, which foresee a cut in welfare payments and longer detention periods for applicants whose asylum requests have been turned down. Asylum seekers also face stricter regulations on identification.

Supporters say the law is needed to prevent social tensions and abuses of the system while opponents argue the measures go against Switzerland's humanitarian tradition.

A first poll published last month showed 54 per cent approving and 27 per cent rejecting the law.

Immigration rules

The law on foreigners, which limits immigration from outside the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (Efta) to highly skilled workers, appears to win approval by 57 per cent. The figure is down two percentage points from last month.

The number of those opposed reached 30 per cent, up seven per cent.

Citizens from EU and Efta countries already benefit from an agreement between Switzerland and Brussels on the free movement of people, in force since 2002 and extended in 2005.

Bank profits

The proposal to use part of the central bank's profits to prop up the old age pension scheme - the third issue to come to a vote on September 24 – appears to have lost support.

Forty-six per cent of those polled said they were in favour of the plan by the trade unions and centre-left parties - a drop of 15 percentage points since the last survey.

The percentage of opponents increased by 18 per cent to 35 per cent over the same period apparently in response to a high-profile campaign by the business community, the cantons and the finance ministry.

The people's initiative wants to redistribute the National Bank's annual profits, meaning that all but SFr1 billion ($0.8 billion) should go towards plugging an expected shortfall in the state old age pension scheme.

Under the current plan, the cantons, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy, receive two-thirds of the bank's profits, while the federal authorities receive the remaining one third.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

Key facts

Asylum law: 61% yes, 28% no, 11% undecided.
Foreigners law: 57% yes, 30% no, 13% undecided
Bank profit for pension scheme: 46% yes, 35% no, 19% undecided
Expected turnout: 48%

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In brief

The poll was carried out by the gfs institute last week among more than 1,200 potential voters.

The ballot on spending the profits of the National Bank to plug the expected shortfall in the pension fund needs to win a double majority of voters and the 26 cantons to pass.

The vote on tightening asylum and immigration regulations, already approved by parliament, only needs a majority of voters to pass.

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