Zurich's cathedral occupied by illegal immigrant supporters

Zurich's Cathedral is the site for a demonstration against the treatment of illegal immigrants in Switzerland.

More than 50 people have descended upon Zurich's cathedral to show their support for illegal immigrants who are trying to secure residency rights.

This content was published on October 20, 2001 minutes

The group of protestors, which includes a handful of illegal immigrants, walked into the building at 9.40am on Saturday morning for a 24-hour sit-in.

The aim of the peaceful demonstration is to show solidarity with immigrants living in Switzerland, who do not have the required papers to stay in the country.

According to a spokesman for the protesters, the demonstration has the blessing of the cathedral's female pastor who gave them the green light on condition that the interior of the church was not changed to accomodate them.

In a press communiqué the group said it wanted to raise awareness about the uncertainty of the immigrants' futures and the precarious conditions in which they live and work.

Political discussion

They are calling for a political discussion, which would address the needs of immigrants in canton Zurich and would raise awareness of what the protesters have called a "failed immigration policy."

It marks the first time that a group has called for action on the issue in German speaking Switzerland. To date, the matter has only been raised in French speaking Switzerland and the capital Bern.

The question of illegal immigrants who have lived in Switzerland for many years is a political hot potato and a more than five months of peaceful protests on the issue has catapulted the matter into the heart of Swiss politics.

The Zurich protest is the latest demonstration in a summer of church occupations across Switzerland by illegal immigrants. The biggest collective was in Fribourg, where 80 people from 14 different nationalities staged an 11-week long sit-in.

The group included people whose temporary asylum status or temporary work permits had expired. Many had lived and settled in Switzerland and had children here.

swissinfo with agencies

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