Expat Eff-that: Swiss Vote to Curb Immigration

50.3% of a recent vote in Switzerland was in favour of instituting strict immigration measures. Switzerland. A country arguably reliant on the influx of foreign money to ensure it benefits from an incredibly stable economy, the lowest unemployment rate in Europe (save Lichtenstein, but pfft), and the country that benefits, above all else, from my currently residing in it.

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

Feeling kind of unwelcome isn’t a novelty in Geneva; I’ve certainly experienced the odd bit of ‘oh so you’re not completely fluent in French yet and even though you’re giving it a go I shall still roll my eyes before replying to your polite request in unaccented and perfect English.’ But I think that’s a cultural thing – people are generally much less rude than in Paris, say, to us foreigners. I can understand that people who relocate to Switzerland with banks, hedge funds or oil companies that don’t even attempt a ‘parlez-vous anglais?’ before launching into demands in English (not even Franglais!) can rile the locals, but tarring all of us with the same brush is unfair, and legislating against immigration is taking the pissed off waiter act a little far if you ask me.

Would Hemingway et al have put up with this shit in Paris in the 20s?

HemNope

Exactly. Thanks, Hembizzle. Whilst I admit that I haven’t actually gotten around to establishing a literary salon and founding a literary movement (expatriate chocolate postmodernism anyone?), us foreigners do contribute, by and large, to cultural life in Switzerland.

As well as introducing quotas for foreign immigration to Switzerland, the initiative also means that Swiss nationals will be given priority when applying for jobs. The quota system won’t mean that we get deported, as it won’t be instituted for two to three years and doesn’t apply retrospectively. But applying for jobs could be difficult, once I’ve tamed this PhD beast. To be honest, when I finish the PhD, I’m quite inclined to say ‘fuck the beautiful mountains and delicious cheese, I’m going back to Blighty. Toblerone is cheaper there anyway.’ I can’t be the only one.

Interestingly, there was a language divide in the voting, the Swiss Germans and Swiss Italians being generally much more in favour of the right wing measures than Francophone Switzerland. The cosmopolitan cities in which most expats live and work, like Geneva and Zurich, which interact and cohabit most with the expat population, voted against the immigration-curbing measures. We obviously charmed them adequately. But it seems that the rest of Switzerland is really worried about the increasing population, and the UDC successfully capitalised on this fear without adequate challenge from the other parties.

I understand that the unlimited influx of people can put strain on a country’s infrastructure, but it’s pretty clear to see that Switzerland is doing alright. Of course, the worsening situation in countries like Portugal and Spain has meant that there has been an influx of people seeking a better life in Switzerland (how dare they) but concerns over crime rates increasing and welfare fraud can be addressed in other, more effective ways than by simply closing the borders, chaps.

Source: swissinfo.ch

Source: swissinfo.ch

And the people complaining about how public transport is getting more crowded need to get the last tube from anywhere to anywhere on a summertime Saturday night in London. I’ve seen things, man. Bad things. You have nothing to complain about, Switzerland.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 13.56.09

With some companies making preparations to relocate to Ireland in light of the recent vote, it is unclear how this impacts on the bilateral EU-Swiss agreements that evidently took a lot of effort to negotiate (though this somewhat predates my interest in Swiss-EU politics).

The Swiss people that I’ve spoken to are sad and angry with the results. I know that referenda are a hallmark of the Swiss system, but I can’t help but feel let down that evidently there wasn’t much effort expended in countering the propaganda distributed by the UDP. This is uncomfortable viewing, on billboards in my host city:

Brb, just going to go and stamp on the Swiss flag in my Gestapo boots...

Brb, just going to go and stamp on the Swiss flag in my Gestapo boots…

This whole vote has left a bad taste in my mouth, and combined with my recent discovery that Switzerland didn’t grant the vote to women until 1971 (this is not a typo), has left me saddened and perplexed, despite valiant efforts by organisations such as www.theotherhalf.ch/.

Sort your shit out, Switzerland. The world is watching, and thinks you’re kind of a douche.

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