SVP: Immigration to blame for "almost all" of Switzerland's problems
After emerging as the largest party once again at the latest federal elections, the populist, rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has now set out its priorities for the future. In a bid to solve the most pressing issues highlighted by voters during the campaign, the party has announced proposals that are designed to curtail immigration, something it claims causes the majority of Switzerland’s problems.
SVP celebrate success in Swiss elections
At the meeting of SVP delegates in Kreuzlingen, Canton Thurgau, party campaign leader Marcel Dettling hailed the 2023 federal elections as a major success. At least 100.000 more Swiss citizens voted for SVP candidates compared to 2019, leading to a gain of nine seats in the National Council - the full results of the Council of States are yet to be decided.
While the winning party in the Swiss parliament is unable to enact its policies at will - the SVP remains 39 seats short of a majority so would need the support of at least one other party to pass legislation, and both citizens and opposition parties can launch referendums against their proposals - they will be able to set the talking points and parliamentary agenda.
With their conference now concluded, it seems as though their primary focus will be on the one issue that experts said launched them to election success in the first place: playing into fears and concerns about immigration.
Chiesa: Almost all issues in Switzerland caused by migration
At the meeting, SVP party president Marco Chiesa argued that “almost all the problems we encounter today in our country are due to excessive immigration.” The president, from Canton Ticino, took particular aim at what he called the “chaos of asylum” in the border town of Chiasso.
Since this summer, authorities have raised the alarm about conditions at the Chiasso Federal Asylum Centre and the wider city, with officials reporting high occupancy rates at asylum accommodation and rising rates of crime. The number of people trying to claim asylum in Switzerland this year hit 21.300 last week, 40 percent more than during the same period the year before.
Justice Minister laments poor conditions in Chiasso
As a result, the government has ordered that security be strengthened in the city of Chiasso, with more patrols by police and new asylum occupational programmes set to be launched soon. Justice Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider told Swissinfo that while only a tiny minority of asylum seekers commit crimes, the situation has been exacerbated by poor living conditions, high numbers of migrants and underinvestment.
It’s also important to note that many migrants are held in poor conditions, despite not actually wanting to apply for asylum in Switzerland. According to Swissinfo, of those who are met at the Swiss border, less than 3 percent of migrants actually apply for asylum in the alpine nation.
Limit asylum seekers' access to healthcare, proposes SVP
At the SVP conference, the party confirmed that it would be looking to pressure other parties to “join a firmer stance” on migration. Chiesa himself called for the return of systematic border controls while also arguing that migrants should file their claim for asylum from outside Switzerland before entering the country.
Another proposal announced at the conference was a plan to limit asylum seekers' access to healthcare. While short on detail, the SVP said that a “light health fund” could be used for asylum seekers and those whose right to residence had not been clarified.
Special tax proposed for expats in Switzerland
Chiesa also raised the possibility of a special tax being placed on those who hold residence permits. "In tourism, we know tourist taxes. So let's impose a tourist tax on immigrants," he explained. This is despite the fact that repeated studies have found that expats and internationals pay more into the social security system than they ever take out, and are seen as the solution to the stability of the Swiss pension system and the ongoing worker shortage.
Finally, the party also voiced its opposition to what it called Switzerland’s “creeping accession to the EU”. Even though restarted negotiations with the European Union had only been hinted at last week, the party said that the country should already set “red lines” in negotiations, especially around Swiss neutrality and the role of the European Court of Justice in Switzerland.
Unclear how popular the SVP's proposals are
Despite the SVP’s win in 2023, their proposals will still need the support of other right-leaning parties, with experts noting that many have already tried to distance themselves from working with them. For example, back in August, the president of the right-leaning FDP. The Liberals, Thierry Burkart, told reporters that while they would support a “firm but fair” policy on migration, he thought the SVP’s solutions were “irresponsible.”
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