Friday, 9 August 2013

Segregation in Switzerland

After deciding the rewrite their national anthem, Switzerland has made the news once again, and this time on a much more controversial issue. This is not a story that has really been that much of a big thing, but, especially on a slow news day, should really be the headlines.

Switzerland is considering banning asylum seekers from certain public places, such as pools and libraries, since people there are getting sick of the mass immigration that is effecting the country. The news reports that more asylum seekers are trying to get into Switzerland, per citizen, than any other country in Europe, and that is really starting to grind on them. They are just sick of all these new people causing problems in their country.

These laws are only going to be introduced in some towns, rather than nationwide, and are an attempt to stop the large number of foreigners intruding into these towns, and potentially causing trouble. According to the Independent, 32 restriction zones have been set up, where asylum seekers will not be able to hang around, and therefore should be much nicer places for the rest of the people.

The new areas are meant to be places where there will be less drug use, less disorder, and freedom from conflict, all things that would apparently arise if asylum seekers were allowed to go there. The Mayor of Menzingen, one of the towns that wants to restrict where asylum seekers are allowed, interestingly put forward the idea that this is about protecting children, since stopping these people from going near schools will mean that they won't put young boys or girls in danger.

In addition, the country will be setting up centres where asylum seekers can live, another attempt to keep an eye on them, while removing a problem from the rest of the society. In fact, these measures have quite a bit of public support, and I am pretty sure that we all know someone who would like them to be introduced in our own countries as well.

So, these policies are about protecting children, protecting society, and really helping by reducing conflict. Frankly, there doesn't seem much about them that it not to like. That is, of course, if we gloss over the fact that they are blatantly racist, unfairly oppressive, based on incorrect assumptions and a complete overreaction. Other than those things, it is actually alright.

The reality is that these people are in Switzerland legally, since they are claiming asylum, but are facing segregation because people are starting to believe that they are going to cause trouble. It might be that they are statistically more likely to be drug users, or to be involved in conflict, but that does not mean that they should be grouped together by draconian measures that don't belong in this century. Simply put, what these towns are doing is wrong.

Having left countries due to persecution or poverty, these people are coming to a place that is meant to be a beacon of democracy, something that I wrote about yesterday. Yet, instead of reaching this freedom, they are possibly going to be banned from mixing with the locals, because they are not part of Swiss society, and are not welcome there. The similarities between these measures and the segregation that was seen in the southern US states, or in South Africa, should really be ringing alarm bells in lawmakers heads, but somehow the laws still stand a good chance of becoming reality.

This is not something the west, and particularly Switzerland, should be proud of. In fact, we should stand back in horror at it, because it is something that you really would not expect to see nowadays. This may stop asylum seekers from going to Switzerland, but it will simply alienate those that are already there, causing a lot of problems for society than if they were not in place. The way to reduce crime and conflict is not to grab one group of people and tell them they are not welcome. In fact, that is the exact way you go about creating conflict.

Switzerland are not going to be able to solve their problems by doing this, and there is the possibility this will just make things worse. These laws just seem unjustifiable.

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