Huge disparities found in how cantons deal with non-Swiss criminals

Huge disparities found in how cantons deal with non-Swiss criminals

New data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has revealed that since 2019, around 60 percent of non-Swiss criminals were deported from the country after committing a crime. Six years after the practice was made law by a referendum, the FSO found that while the overall number of deportations remains high, the rate varies dramatically between Swiss cantons.

Valais, Fribourg and Thurgau found to be more lenient in deportations

The FSO found that over the past three years, the deportation rate for non-Swiss criminal offenders has averaged around 60 percent in the country as a whole. However, this rate varies dramatically depending on the canton, with Valais, Fribourg and Thurgau only deporting 27,6 percent of "foreign" lawbreakers.

RTS explained that Article 66a of the Penal Code, part of the law agreed by the referendum six years ago, allows judges to consider “hardship clauses” in cases, allowing them to be more lenient and prevent deportation. This is typically used when offenders do not have Swiss citizenship but were born in Switzerland and went through the school system.

Pierre Aubert, attorney general in Canton Neuchâtel, explained, "It is our duty to apply this law with moderation. Above this law, there is the constitutional principle of proportionality. We must take into account the situation so that the punishment corresponds to the fault committed."

Geneva found to deport the largest proportion of non-Swiss criminals

The soft approach by Neuchâtel is contrasted by Vaud, Bern and Basel-Land, which all expel non-Swiss criminals at a higher rate than the national average. The strictest canton was found to be Geneva, with 77 percent of international criminals expelled in the last three years.

The attorney general for Geneva, Oliver Jornot, denied being overzealous, noting that Geneva has one of the highest proportions of expats in Switzerland. “In Geneva, the population of lawbreakers is very largely made up of people passing through who have no connection with Switzerland. The hardship clause, therefore, does not apply to them," he said. 

According to RTS, the dramatic difference between cantons could soon fade. In the latest parliamentary session in June, lawmakers passed a motion which will reduce the room for interpretation when considering deportation requests, in an attempt to make the practice uniform across the country.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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