Switzerland: Do strict citizenship laws help or hurt integration? – swissinfo.ch

On how Switzerland makes it particularly hard to participate and integrate:

Since permit and citizenship laws have become tied to social aid money, both Müller and Chukwunyere have worked with people who try to avoid taking such payments because they know the consequences.

“They would definitely be eligible for social aid and are considered working poor. But they don’t want the support anymore – and what does that mean for their children?” Chukwunyere wonders.

Müller mostly sees the laws affecting young immigrants who have no choice but to take social aid money when they become adults because their families depended on it throughout their childhood.

Usually, those young people aren’t after citizenship – at least not right away – but they do want to get a residence permit that gives them a better chance on the job market in Switzerland. To get a better permit, they also have to prove they’re not getting social aid and pay it back in some cases – nearly impossible for young people just starting out on their own.

“Those with certain types of permits aren’t eligible for scholarships, so they’re forced to take social aid money at age 18,” Müller explains. “Unless they don’t do an apprenticeship and look for a job right away, but that’s not what’s generally encouraged in Switzerland.”

“It is a big goal for young immigrants to get another type of permit,” Müller says. “And you’re taking some hope away from them if you tell them that it will be more difficult to get that permit if they take social aid money.”

More laws

Although Elif and Emre feel discouraged that they will have to wait nearly another decade to become Swiss, they say they’ll wait it out and fight for the law to be repealed in the meantime.

But political winds may be blowing against them, with similar laws being debated or in place in other cantons such as Uri, Basel City and Aargau. And the new national citizenship law, which will come into force in 2018, will have a similar effect because it requires applicants for naturalisation to have a permanent residence permit, generally only obtainable for those who pay off their social aid debts.

Meanwhile, the number of citizenship applications in canton Bern have increased again after having fallen off considerably following the approval of Hess’s law.

“I’m sure there would have been even more applications without the law,” Hess said of the rebound in Bern’s Der Bund newspaper, adding that his party advocates for quality and not quantity when it comes to citizenship and that today’s citizens are better integrated as a result.

But Chukwunyere wonders where that leaves the quarter of the Swiss population without a passport.

“Research shows that a person only feels at home when they can participate,” Chukwunyere points out. “Here you can only fully participate if you are Swiss. But if you hang the fruit so high that everyone knows they can’t reach it, then you’re achieving the opposite of integration.”

Source: Do strict citizenship laws help or hurt integration? – SWI swissinfo.ch


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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