Black Sheep Out – Switzerland and Direct Democracy

In another act of direct democracy, 52.9% of the Swiss voting public yesterday approved a referendum proposal to automatically expel foreigners convicted of various crimes. The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police press release reads, in part, as follows:

The people and the cantons have today adopted the popular initiative on the expulsion of foreign criminals. In future, foreign nationals who have committed one of the criminal offences named in the text of the initiative should automatically lose their right of residence and be deported to their country of origin. Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga will set to work on implementing the initiative without delay.

The proposal was an initiative of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the party also responsible for the recent referendum banning the further building of mosques, also approved by the voters.

The campaign leading up to the vote was bitter at times, much opposition to the proposal centring on the xenophobic and, many alleged, racist nature of the proposal, evidence of which was found in the SVP poster advocating approval that showed white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag:


Click on image to enlarge.

All countries, Canada included, have provisions for the deportation of some non-citizens who commit crimes. It is the automatic nature of the expulsion and the broad range of offences prompting removal that are of concern. Switzerland has obligations under international law not to send people to countries where they may be tortured or face the death penalty.

The text of the referendum proposal is available in French [PDF]. The crimes triggering expulsion are broadly described as follows:

Ils (les étrangers) sont privés de leur titre de séjour, indépendamment de leur statut, et de tous leurs droits à séjourner en Suisse:
a. s’’ils ont été condamnés par un jugement entré en force pour meurtre, viol, ou tout autre délit sexuel grave, pour un acte de violence d’une autre nature tel que le brigandage, la traite d’’êtres humains, le trafic de drogue ou l’’effraction; ou
b. s’’ils ont perçu abusivement des prestations des assurances sociales ou de l’’aide sociale.

My rough translation is:

They (foreigners) are deprived of their residence permits, regardless of their status, and of all their rights to remain in Switzerland:
a. if they have been convicted by a final judgment of murder, rape, or other serious sexual offence, an another act of violence such as robbery, trafficking in human beings, trafficking in drugs, or burglary; or
b. if they have defrauded social insurance or social assistance programs.

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