Federal department admits that Switzerland is systemically racist

Federal department admits that Switzerland is systemically racist

For the first time ever, a branch of the government has admitted that Switzerland is structurally and systemically racist. The new report from the Federal Service for Combating Racism (SLR) argued that discrimination and exclusions based on so-called “racial criteria” are rooted in Swiss society and institutions.

Structural racism a reality in Switzerland, says SLR

According to the official report, published in RTS, forms of “structural” or "systemic" racism based on racial criteria (skin colour, name, language proficiency, accents, etc) are not only present in how laws are enforced by the police, but reinforced, in the words of the broadcaster, by “prejudices built up throughout history and now so deeply rooted in our society that they go unnoticed.”

To come to this conclusion, the SLR asked the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel to review more than 300 scientific reports related to the issue. They concluded that systemic racism “is a reality” in Switzerland and that measures to rectify the situation are sorely needed.

Non-Swiss prejudiced in housing and administration

When it came to specific examples of racism in Switzerland, SLR noted that internationals find it much harder to find accommodation than Swiss citizens. Along with renting, they found that stereotypes continue to play a role in the actions of authorities on the local, cantonal and federal levels - especially when it comes to interactions with the police - and that workplace discrimination remains an issue.

"The [government] measures taken so far... have aimed above all to change the attitudes of people or to support the victims. While this approach is not erroneous, it is no less insufficient," the SLR wrote in a statement. However, the deputy head of the organisation, Katja Müller, concluded that "it is not the Anti-Racism Service that will decide on the measures to be put in place," calling on the wider government to act.

SLR the first Swiss department to acknowledge structural racism

Switzerland has long been criticised by the international community for its stance on racism, with a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council condemning the government’s handling of the issue. Amnesty International has also called the country “systematically racist” in its latest annual report, and the UN Working Group on People of African Descent is now calling on Switzerland to officially prohibit racial profiling and create oversight bodies for the emergency services.

The intervention by the SLR is the first time that a branch of the Swiss federal government has admitted that the country is systemically racist.

Speaking to RTS, National Councillor Vincent Maitre said that while it will be relatively easy to pass anti-racism legislation on the governmental level, it will take much longer for society to adjust accordingly. “In strictly private sectors, such as the job market or housing, it seems much more difficult to act quickly and concretely,” he told the broadcaster.

Thumb image credit: / smpoly

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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