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Swiss Reject Automatic Expulsion of Foreign Criminals


Voters in Switzerland have rejected a proposal to automatically deport foreign residents convicted of even minor crimes.

The initiative, put forward by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), was rejected Sunday by 59 percent of voters, the government website showed.

Under the proposal, foreigners would have been deported after completing sentences for serious crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery, or for two lesser crimes committed in a 10-year period, such as speeding, burglary or arguing with a police officer. The referendum offered no right of appeal: conviction would lead to deportation in every case, regardless of individual circumstances.

Supporters said it would make Switzerland a safer place, and they pointed to statistics indicating that foreigners take up more than their fair share of prison cells. Foreigners are about a quarter of Switzerland's population.

The Swiss government had opposed the measure. Federal councilor Simonetta Sommaruga told RTS television that voters had sent the message: "Human rights are important in our country: They should not be restricted.''

Also, activists and business leaders said the plan would violate human rights and complicate relations with Switzerland's main trade partner, the European Union.