Voters will be asked if foreign national guilty of two minor crimes, such as traffic offences, in 10 years, should be expelled
Switzerland votes in a referendum Sunday on whether foreigner citizens who commit two minor offences, like traffic violations, in the space of 10 years should be automatically deported.
The referendum asks whether any foreign national found guilty of two lower-level infractions, including fighting, money laundering, giving false testimony and indecent exposure, should be expelled.
The vote comes at a time when many European countries are hardening their attitudes to migrants after more than a million arrived on the continent last year.
A quarter of the people living in Switzerland have a foreign passport, the majority of them from European countries.
More than half of Swiss voters backed strengthening rules to automatically expel foreign nationals convicted of violent or sexual crimes in a referendum on the same topic six years ago.
But the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which won the biggest share of the vote in parliamentary elections last October, has accused parliament of dragging its feet on writing the text into law and watering it down when it did so last March.
Known for its virulent campaigns against immigration, the European Union and Islam, the party has proposed tougher rules, calling for “a real deportation of criminal foreigners”.
The initiative faces stiff opposition, including from the government, parliament and all the other major political parties, who have warned it circumvents the “fundamental rules” of democracy.
If passed, it would dramatically increase the number of offences that could get foreign nationals automatically kicked out of Switzerland, including misdemeanours usually punishable with fines or short prison sentences.
It would also remove a judge’s right to refrain from deportation in cases where it would cause the foreign national “serious personal hardship”.
More than 50,000 people including hundreds of celebrities have signed a petition against the proposals.
A poll by gfs.bern earlier this month found 49% of those questioned opposed the text while 46% were in favour – but with five per cent still undecided, the vote could go either way.
Opponents warn that if the text passes, people born to foreign parents in Switzerland risk being deported to countries they have never lived in, for petty offences.
Last time they voted on the issue, the Swiss agreed to automatically deport foreigners found guilty of murder, rape and other serious sexual offences, violent crimes like robbery, drug trafficking and abusing social aid.
The Swiss will also voice their opinions on a range of other issues in the vote, including the proposed construction of a new road tunnel under the Gottard pass in the central Swiss Alps.