Switzerland votes today in a referendum on rules that will make it tougher for asylum seekers to get refugee status. The measures have already been accepted by the Swiss parliament, but opponents forced a referendum. The new measures will make it compulsory for asylum seekers to to present a valid passport if they want their dossier to be taken into consideration.
Justice Minister Cristoph Blocher, one of the sponsors of the new restrictions, argues they are necessary because up to 80 per cent of asylum seekers attempt to hide their identities – creating a considerable burden for the administration. However asylum seeker support groups argue that many of those most in need don’t have passports. “These rules will mean that more people in cruel plights will be sent back,” says Ruth Dreiffuss of the No campaign.
10 000 people sought asylum in Switzerland last year, the lowest figure since 1987. In a separate vote the Swiss will also be asked to toughen up visa restrictions for unskilled workers from outside the European Union.