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A heart of darkness?

by whataboutbob Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 08:38:56 AM EST

I guess I'm kind of beating the drum on this topic, but...what the heck, it's news! From Stormy Present in today's Salon, via The Independent: Switzerland: Europe's heart of darkness?

Switzerland is known as a haven of peace and neutrality. But today it is home to a new extremism that has alarmed the United Nations. Proposals for draconian new laws that target the country's immigrants have been condemned as unjust and racist. A poster campaign, the work of its leading political party, is decried as xenophobic. (...)

A worrying new extremism is on the rise. For the poster - which bears the slogan "For More Security" - is not the work of a fringe neo-Nazi group. It has been conceived - and plastered on to billboards, into newspapers and posted to every home in a direct mailshot - by the Swiss People's Party (the Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP) which has the largest number of seats in the Swiss parliament and is a member of the country's coalition government.

With a general election due next month, it has launched a twofold campaign which has caused the UN's special rapporteur on racism to ask for an official explanation from the government. The SVP party has launched a campaign to raise the 100,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum to reintroduce into the penal code a measure to allow judges to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes once they have served their jail sentence.

I find myself wondering, now that the news is spreading out into Europe, just how the Swiss people will respond to this. I hope the Swiss vote decisively against the SVP and their racist campaign. Will enough people care about this to vote?


But far more dramatically, it has announced its intention to lay before parliament a law allowing the entire family of a criminal under the age of 18 to be deported as soon as sentence is passed.

It will be the first such law in Europe since the Nazi practice of Sippenhaft - kin liability - whereby relatives of criminals were held responsible for their crimes and punished equally.

The proposal will be a test case not just for Switzerland but for the whole of Europe, where a division between liberal multiculturalism and a conservative isolationism is opening up in political discourse in many countries, the UK included.

The eyes are now on Switzerland...what will be their legacy??

Display:
I wish I could vote...and sure hope this gets people to the voting booth to do the correct thing and defeat SVP.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 08:40:02 AM EST
Thanks for putting this into a diary Bob. I wanted to respond to this in the Salon but didn't get chance.

This is really one of my worst fears coming true.  It's a slow process, allowing racism to creep in to such a high level.  But once it reaches a critical point it seems impossible to stop it advancing further into a position where it is able to dominate, such that we seem to be seeing with Switzerland and the SVP.

I know people often think that us lefties bang on about black people and migrants and their rights and the dangers of far-right parties and activists and they think "it's not a real threat".

But the failure to challenge and stamp out racism when it is only small local groups organising, leads to netowrkign and sophosticated organising and then to national parties getting a grip in running countries with no regard for the rights of black people and migrants and so on, but also with little regard for other minority groups of 'natives' or for the well being of the country as a whole.

And now we are seeing Nazi-esque legislation being discussed.  When will people learn?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 09:21:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I could vote...

I know the feeling.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 02:59:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am becoming increasingly convinced of the need to extend the voting franchise to all residents regardless of nationality. I read once in El Pais that this is actually favoured by a majority of Spaniards in opinion polls.

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 03:07:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 03:36:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Page, you're married to a citizen... It can't be all that hard to get citizenship yourself, or is it?

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 03:15:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I guess it's not that hard, I'm just impatient, and wanted to vote last November.

Also, if I get Dutch citizenship, I am required to give up my American citizenship, which means I couldn't vote in the US :-(

That's not cool.  I need to be able to vote in US elections, for obvious reasons.  Gotta keep the evil (GOP) at bay.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 03:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it a Dutch requirement that you give up your US citizenship?

US State Department: Dual Nationality

... In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. ...



Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 03:44:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some exceptions, but basically the current (and the previous) Dutch government wants to "strengthen the ties" of the immigrants to the Dutch state by not allowing dual citizenship. This is how they explain the policy, anyway.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 06:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think (and hope) that the Swiss system of referendas will defeat this. Surely a majority of the voting swiss will vote against it. Right?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 09:56:27 AM EST
I hope. Who will this bring to the polls? When they had a big pro- vs anti-EU initative last year, there was a strong pro-EU response. So I believe the majority of Swiss are tolerant and forward looking. But...there are so many votes here each year, I think people get a bit lazy. So turnout will be the thing...will this energize the humanitarians, or energize the racists?? We will soon find out...but will keep you posted on any polls or news I may hear.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 10:20:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who knows ? the swiss aren't the most elightened or liberal electorate out there, there was one canton that didn't even allow women to vote till 1990. So using "reasonable" arguments to create popular support racist policies is entirely possible.

You might argue that the price of liberalism is eternal vigilance.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 10:41:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen, that with the women's vote is not quite correct. In 1971 all Swiss women received the right to vote on a federal level. Only in the canton of Appenzell Innerroden, the right to vote on a cantonal and community level was rejected - but they could vote on the federal level.

One of the reasons it took so long for the Swiss women to get the right to vote was that it needed a constitutional change. Before that the right to vote was connected to doing duty in the military service. Now, of course it could have been able to say women have to do military service to. But then again we would have had again a system that would not have allowed voting to every Swiss citizen. And as constitutional changes have to be voted on by the people, as usual it took a while.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 11:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope so too, askod. I don't know how often this topic has come up, couldn't find it with google. But since I came of age (this now being a few decades) and was allowed to vote, this topic as been on many times and everytime up to now, has been rejected.

If against my hopes, it should be accepted this time, this is not the end. This being a direct democracy, people can again start a new initiative to get rid of this law or change it. However, I would prefer for this to be not necessary. And looking at the past votes on this topic I am very hopeful.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 11:26:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
deport foreigners who commit serious crimes once they have served their jail sentence.

That's SOP here, and has been it for ever. Absurd if it wasn't.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 10:32:46 AM EST
I don't know about your country, but in Switzerland it is very hard to get citizenship, so there are families that have been here for 2, 3 maybe even more generations who aren't yet "Swiss" (this is common...a person without citizenship has a "C" permit - permanent resident...but not citizen)...even though their families have been born here, and know no other land as their home but here. But if this new law passes, then if someone screws up, the whole family is gone. To...where?? Now to me, that's absurd.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 02:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I emailed this article to the professor whom I'm taking an international law and human rights course from, and asked him what he thought.

He said that this was a case where there were differing understandings of citizenship.  Where in the United States and France you have the "law of the soil", i.e. if you are born here you are a citizen, Switzerland and many other European countries have the "law of the blood" you are a citizen only if born of a citizen.

Thus, you can have the situation where a family has lived for 2-3 generations but haven't earned citizenship.

On the more specific issue of whether the "collective punishment" aspect was something adjudicatable under international law, he said that in the absence of another violation of international human rights law, this is entirely "legal."  

On a side note, this particular professor was born stateless the child of Austrian Jewish parents in 1945 in Switzerland.  Although he's now an American, his first citizenship was Swiss, and he has quite a favorable opinion of Switzerland's record on human rights.

For me, I'm disturbed, because this is the country that my great grandfather came from in 1886.  Switzerland has been a democracy for over 700 years, the longest continous democracy in the world.  Yet, while the Swiss have their flaws, there is much of which to be proud.  And much to believe that though they will falter, they will not fall to the specter of history that confronts their neighbor to the north.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 03:33:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have the opposite problem. It's extremely easy to get Swedish citizenship and we sort of throw it at everyone who moves here. Often so fast that when they commit crimes they are already citizens and we can't deport them. And (for some mad reason) it's illegal to strip naturalized citizens of their citizenships, so once they get their citizenship we are stuck with them.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 12:21:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a great system if you want to create anti-immigrant opinion, but not great for much else.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 12:24:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 15. (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
Why do you advocate stripping naturalised citizens of their nationality, and not any citizens?

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 12:26:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What use would it be? Where would you deport indigenous criminals? The North Pole?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 01:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And where do you deport naturalised criminals?

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 01:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To their country of origin.

By the way, the article you list above is precisely the reason that migrants destroy their identity papers before they take off for the Canaries.

I hate to be flippant (translation I enjoy being flippant), but if European countries were interested in limiting migration, they would pay for censuses in African countries.  And offer development aid in exchange for creating a Europol database that contained this information.  

That way you could end the very serious problem with abuse of this article of international law, which in the end undermine the protection it creates for actual cases of denaturalization of citizens by regimes that violate human rights.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 02:12:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am aware of that.

But you cannot deport people to a country where they're not a national even if it's their "country of origin". The other country is not required to take them if they're not nationals. And we just had a discussion of how the Netherlands is requiring those applying for naturalisation to give up their previous nationality in order to "improve" integration.

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 9th, 2007 at 01:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We allow dual citizenship. And even if we didn't, it's not our problem. The criminals should have thought of that before they began comitting crimes.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Sep 9th, 2007 at 05:33:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure,
you just have to be able to prove your identity (beyond any doubt the migration service might present), have a clean criminal record and lived here for 4 or 5 years.

If you are sentenced the period is prolonged. If you have debts the period may be prolonged.

I guess the immigrants are not only criminal but also so lazy that they can not be bothered to commit the crimes they came here to commit until suddenly 4 or 5 years has passed and a swedish citizenship comes flying (after they filled in the forms, payed the fees, proved their identity)?

So how long would you want people to wait?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 09:39:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
10 years is a good number.

And having to pass exams in Swedish, language culture and history, making sure their loyalty has been transfered to their new country and so on.

The United States is, for once, a good example.

(even though they put more focus on language and loyalty and less on culture and history, maybe because they haven't got very much of those things)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Sep 9th, 2007 at 05:33:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
making sure their loyalty has been transfered to their new country

How should they demonstrate this "loyalty"? What does it even mean, exactly?

(I'm not sure I've ever felt loyalty to any country.)

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Sun Sep 9th, 2007 at 08:01:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has a President whose loyalty isn't to his own country.

What is loyalty to a country anyway?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 9th, 2007 at 10:10:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... practice to deport the family of minors that commit criminal offenses? Did I miss something?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 09:31:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope you are not alone... really...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 12:36:34 PM EST
sounds more like the heart of whiteness.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 05:52:38 PM EST
exactly...excellent point (as an old Black Panther friend once ponted out to me, "what makes you think the guy with the white hat is the good guy?").

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Sep 8th, 2007 at 07:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... Kisangani, VS Naipal's Bend in the River, and Conrad's Heart of Darkness.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Sep 7th, 2007 at 09:32:28 PM EST


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