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Swiss Not Always Neutral — Reject Anti-Immigration Measure

In a move away from the nationalistic Swiss People's Party, all but one Swiss state (canton) has voted to reject an anti-immigration initiative designed to stop foreigners from becoming citizens.

The official results showed that 63.8 percent of the population rejected the requirement of having those wishing to become Swiss citizens have their applications put to a vote — a practice some communities use to discourage new citizens.

Switzerland’s President and vocal opponent to the measure said: “The people clearly said ‘We don’t want xenophobia and we want direct democracy to respect basic rights." To see the motivation behind the measure, read more.

The measure was a right wing referendum created to overturn the Supreme Court decision finding it unfair to subject citizen applications to a popular vote. The total turnout for the referendum was 44.1 percent — and in some cantons up to 82 percent voted no.

More than 20 percent of the 7.5 million people who live in Switzerland are foreigners, one of the highest percentages in Europe — and it's not easy to join up. Applicants must live in the country for 12 years before applying for citizenship. Are the Swiss on the right track? Is a bigger welcome mat the best policy?

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