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Switzerland to hold immigration referendum as foreign population hits 27%

Switzerland immigration referendum

Switzerland is set to hold a referendum on immigration to decide whether to cap the country’s population at 10 million, as new figures show one in three residents are now foreigners.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party submitted a petition titled “No 10 million Switzerland” with 114,600 signatures to the federal chancellery in Bern on Wednesday, meaning a referendum must held within the next 18 months according to the country’s direct democracy system.

The initiative demands that a new article on “sustainable population development” be added to the constitution to ensure that the population of permanent residents does not exceed 10 million people before 2050.

The article would require the government to act as soon as the population hits 9.5 million, implementing measures including stopping temporary residents from obtaining permanent status, and cancelling the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the European Union.

Newly elected party president Marcl Dettling said the initiative, which reached the required number of signatures in just nine months, shows “immigration can again be managed independently”.

“Today, too many foreigners arrive, and the wrong ones. We want controlled immigration that benefits our country and our population,” he said.

The party said in a statement that the high level of support for the petition “shows that the population urgently demands sustainable and independently controlled immigration for Switzerland.”

“No other country in Europe is growing faster than little Switzerland. In fact, all of the problems that Switzerland suffers from can be traced back to excessive, uncontrolled immigration: increasing crime, exploding social costs, housing shortages, rising rents and health insurance premiums, declining quality in our schools, traffic jams and overloaded public transport,” the party said last week.

According to the latest federal figures, a total of 263,800 people immigrated in 2023, a 38.2% increase compared to 2022.

Of those, 241,700 were foreigners, and 53,100 were refugees from Ukraine, accounting for 20.1% of immigration.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, immigration was responsible for 95% of population growth in 2023, up from 90% in 2022.

There are now over 2.4 million foreigners living in Switzerland, 27% of the population of 8.96 million.

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