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Old 22.12.2005, 21:10
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

Hi Richard,

I think to some degree this type of fear will exist in every country, but it isn't black and white, some countries have more of it than others. Like the Swiss always like to say when presented with an aspect of their country which someone might not like - "yes, but it is like this everywhere". I object to such sweeping statements which demonstrate nothing but ignorance - an assumption that other countries have exactly the same problems, and that therefore you don't have to think about another way of "fixing" or improving your own country. My usual response is "yes, but in some countries much more than others".

One simply has to dig a little deeper into statistics and examine things like number of asylum accepted per year compared to size of population, and number of acceptances compared to number of rejected applications. Apart from the numbers one can also compare other things such as: The length of time taken to process applications, and the treatment the people will receive before and after their applications. For example - will a professor of mathematics be forced to do nothing but demeaning garden work for a few years while his application is being processed? They will in Switzerland, but you'll find that other slightly more switched on countries would be glad to have someone so educated and will open the doors immediately. You can also look at other things like forced deportations etc.

One should also be careful when making such comparisons with other european countries - many of them have a very poor showing when it comes to the treatment of refugees. Within Europe Sweden pulls more than its fair share of taking refugees (by a factor of about 5-10) than other countries. However, Switzerland, despite being a rich nation that often points the finger at other nations for human rights abuses, now has some of the harshest laws regarding the treatment of asylum seekers. Apparently this seems to have the support of Swiss population, but the UN has some very harsh words to say about it.

How ironic that a nation that plays host to the UN, Red Cross, and other humanitarian organisations has been harshly criticised by the same organisations on a host of human rights issues ranging from conditions in its prisons (massively overcrowded) to treatment of refugees.

I think the Swiss generally consider that they and their country do a lot to help poorer people and poorer nations. But it is easy to put your hand in your pocket and give money to help ease the feeling of guilt, but it's another matter entirely when the needy are living in your own country - then peoples' generousity seems to disappear.

I know that not every Swiss is racist or likes to see refugees treated in this way. But let's face it - the majority voted for these laws, and that's a hard fact to argue against... It must be incredibly frustrating for some Swiss who are a little more progressive/liberal who always seem to find themselves on the losing end of the ballot box!

I heard an excellent expression the other day: "Nationality is nothing more than an accident of birth". Those of us lucky enough to hold passports which entitle us to a peaceful existance would do well to remember that!

Mark