Swiss voters today approved a plan for automatic deportation of foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud, in what was a significant victory for the nationalist party that pushed the proposal against the will of the government.
Some 52.9% of voters backed the proposal from the nationalist Swiss People's party (SVP). It was opposed by 47.1% of voters. A government-backed counterproposal failed – it would have required a case-by-case review by a judge before an individual was deported.
"I'm totally for it," said Emma Link, 86, after voting in Geneva. She blamed foreigners for what she said was rising crime, adding that she had recently been robbed on her way home from a nearby shop.
The SVP plan drew fire before today's referendum from legal experts who said it could breach offenders' human rights. Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, said people who had lived all their life in Switzerland, married Swiss citizens and had children but never obtained Swiss passports, would be unusually hard hit by expulsion.
Under Switzerland's political system, any group wanting to change the law can collect 100,000 signatures to force a referendum. Last year the country drew international condemnation after voters defied a government recommendation by approving a law to ban the construction of minarets.