People are voting in Switzerland this weekend on whether the public should decide if immigrants get passports or not.
That is what will happen if the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) gets its way. Certain Swiss communities used to decide on citizenship requests by a secret ballot of the applicants’ neighbours. But it was stopped five years ago. Now it is back on the table again as more foreigners are being given Swiss passports. In 1992 it was 10,000 a year. Last year 45,000 people became Swiss.
The Vukajlovic family from the former Yugoslavia know how difficult it is to get a passport in a country with some of the toughest naturalisation laws in the world: “We did not get the Swiss citizenship by popular vote,” said Marinko Vukajlovic, a carpenter by trade. “It wasn’t only my family who was rejected but all the candidates from the former Yugoslavia. We were very disappointed.”
Following the ban on popular votes, the family’s application was approved by the courts. It was that obvious discrimination which prompted the ban. In one particular community eight Italian nationals were given passports while 48 Eastern European and Turkish candidates were denied.
Now the Swiss must decide whether to take a step back in time. Opinion polls seem certain they will not, but the result won’t be known until later today.