Switzerland votes on the automatic expulsion of foreigners convicted of some crimes. The referendum comes amid mounting fears around immigration after hundreds of attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve.
Swiss citizens have voted several times in recent years on immigration. The latest vote looms as a bellwether of anti-immigration sentiment spreading across the European continent.
Switzerland adopts many laws by referendum. The conservative Swiss People's Party (SVP) collected the signatures necessary to put the question on the ballot. It is aimed at closing a loophole in an existing law, the result of an SVP-organized ballot initiative in 2010, that complicates expelling convicted criminals. The SVP believes that parliament has watered down its 2010 initiative, according to SwissInfo, and the party regards the new vote as an enforcement measure. Opponents argue that the proposal encroaches on the separation of powers.
Conservative political parties with anti-immigration platforms are on the rise from Sweden to Poland and the Czech Republic, thriving on growing fears about the flood of immigrants into Europe, terror attacks and on reports of incidents like the assaults on women in German cities.
Another recent Swiss vote on immigration sees Switzerland at odds with the European Union. The government is caught between the polarized views of Swiss voters and the deal agreed with Brussels, which gives Switzerland access to EU markets. After months of tough negotiations, according to Euractiv, Berne and Brussels are still gridlocked over how to implement a 2014 Swiss referendum for immigration quotas that would violate a bilateral pact guaranteeing freedom of movement for EU workers.
Date written/update: 2016-01-26