Swiss vote to deport foreigners convicted of crimes
PARIS — Switzerland voted in a referendum yesterday to automatically expel foreigners convicted of crimes ranging from murder to false claims for unemployment insurance.
The measure, which was approved by 53 percent of voters, highlighted a growing unease with the number of immigrants in Western Europe who arrive from poor countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to take advantage of the continent’s peace, prosperity and generous social protections.
The European Union’s border patrol force, Frontex, earlier this month deployed international armed guards along a stretch of the Greece-Turkey border that had become a major entry point for illegal Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian and North African immigrants.
But the richest European countries already have large populations of legal and illegal immigrants, more than 20 percent in Switzerland’s case.
The referendum was held on an initiative from the ultranationalist Swiss People’s Party, which sponsored a vote last year that banned the construction of minarets beside mosques.
Both proposals were opposed by elected officials in the federal government in Bern but were endorsed by a majority of those voting in the binding referendums.
Under the terms of the referendum, the government is required to expel foreigners convicted of serious crimes after they complete their jail terms and to forbid them from returning for as long as 20 years.