Switzerland’s decision to back the reintroduction of immigration quotas has sparked concern relations could unravel with Europe.
The narrow vote has also caused some unrest within the country, with some fearing Switzerland’s special status within Europe could be undermined.
“It’s about the economy. People are afraid that immigrants will come here en masse and take their jobs which I think is wrong,” said one man.
Sentiments shared by another man on the streets of Geneva: “I voted no because we are in the heart of Europe, but maybe Switzerland is the laboratory of Europe and what is going on here will happen in Europe in the next few years.”
In a nail-biting vote, 50.3 percent backed the so-called “Stop mass immigration” initiative, which also won the required majority approval in more than half of Swiss cantons or regions.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party spearheaded the referendum move which must now become law.
Its defenders say it reflects growing concern among the Swiss that immigrants are contributing to rising rents, crowded transport, more crime and eroding the nation’s distinctive Alpine culture.
But critics argue it could make worse a shortage of skilled workers with several multinationals filled with foreign professionals.