Swiss to vote on foreign criminals law

Posters of Swiss People's Party (SVP) demanding to deport criminal foreigners are displayed beside a road in Adliswil, Switzerland, on 11 February 2016Image copyright

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The Swiss People’s Party believes the country will be safer if foreigners who break the law are expelled

People in Switzerland vote on Sunday on whether to automatically expel foreigners who commit minor crimes.

The proposal has been put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.

The vote comes as unease grows among Swiss people at rising immigration and the social problems which, the People’s Party says, come with it.

But opponents say the law will create a two-tier justice system which will unfairly target foreigners who live permanently and legally in Switzerland.

More than five million people are entitled to vote – not including the two million or so foreign nationals living there.

If adopted, the proposal known as the “Enforcement Initiative” would strengthen moves adopted in 2010 to deport foreigners convicted of murder or sexual violence.

The Swiss People’s Party is now seeking automatic deportation with no right of appeal if a foreigner commits two minor offences within 10 years such as speeding or arguing with a police officer.

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The campaign has been emotional and divisive

Supporters of the proposals say it will make Switzerland a safer place, and point to statistics indicating that foreigners take up more than their fair share of prison cells.

Opinion polls suggest the vote will be close.

But if the Swiss do vote yes, they will have adopted some of the strictest laws on foreigners in Europe, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says.

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