Swiss national referendum will limit population to 10 million through strict immigration control to save environment

Migrants protest after they are stranded in Como, Italy, following Switzerland's decision to close its border. (Source: Shutterstock).
By John Cody
9 Min Read

The most popular party in Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Part (SVP), known for its agrarian roots and opposition to mass immigration, is set to pursue a referendum calling for the renegotiation of international treaties, or even their complete abandonment, if the Swiss population hits 10 million.

The proposed referendum comes at a time when Europe increasingly faces environmental catastrophe, a housing crisis, and huge strains on public resources due to soaring immigration levels. Many European nations are among the most densely populated nations in the world and life in them is only expected to become more crowded in the near future unless dramatic action is taken. Switzerland is no exception.

“Our country is cracking in every corner. We are going through the debacles of recent years. If we don’t intervene, we will be overtaken by events,” said Marcel Dettling, the SVP’s campaign manager.

Dettling warns that economic migration remains high, especially from groups known for their difficulty integrating into Switzerland, a fact highlighted by Switzerland’s alarming prison population data.

“Today, there is very strong economic migration,” says Dettling. “Whoever has set foot in Switzerland will never leave the country. Migrants from Africa have welfare rates of 34 percent.”

Dettling’s party is meeting on Jan. 6 and 7 in Thurgau, near the shores of Lake Constance, and the main topic of discussion is expected to be immigration, with the new referendum featuring the working title “initiative for sustainability.”

Explosive population growth

The text for the referendum has also already been completed and would stipulate that Switzerland’s population should not exceed 10 million until 2050. After 2050, this limit could be slightly increased but only due to organic, surplus births, according to the Le Temps new outlet.

SVP National Councilor Thomas Matter says he must sound a “red alert” over Switzerland’s rising population, adding that “this is the last moment when we can still change something for Switzerland.”

“The migration figures are hair-raising,” he said. “In 2022, Switzerland will have 200,000 more inhabitants, the population of the canton of Basel-City.” 

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There is also the threat that a conflict between Serbia and Kosovo would only ramp up the refugee numbers Switzerland is facing.

The country is already rapidly approaching 9 million residents. In 2022, 145,958 people arrived, raising the population to 8.89 million. It is now only a matter of time until the population hits 9 million.

Over the past 20 years, Switzerland’s population has increased by 21 percent.

“If Switzerland grows so strongly again over the next 20 years, everything will collapse,” said Matter, who serves as a national councilor. According to him, the country’s financial reserves for education, health and transport are exhausted.

“It is urgent to leave the model of quantitative growth for qualitative growth.”

Details of the referendum text

Just like the country’s debt brake, the referendum would serve as a brake on immigration. The text stipulates that if certain population limits are reached, the government must take certain steps to inhibit population growthFor example, if Switzerland’s population reaches 9.5 million, the Swiss Federal Council will have to take steps with new laws to counteract this growth.

However, if the country reaches 10 million, the government must respond with “rigorous measures,” including the Federal Council abandoning international agreements, such as the UN migration pacts or EU treaties relating to free movement.

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It is important to note that Switzerland has featured a number of referendums on the topic of immigration in the past, including the famous 2014 referendum “against mass immigration,” which won with 50.3 percent of the vote. The SVP-backed referendum was designed to place strict quotas on immigration, but despite winning the vote, the referendum was more or less made toothless by the Swiss parliament.

Switzerland was threatened by the EU over any attempt to restrict free movement, with the EU warning Switzerland that any abandonment of free movement would have meant that all EU agreements became null and void, which would have presented severe economic consequences for the country.

The SVP harshly criticized the final agreement, which failed to implement immigration quotas but instead offered moderate improvements regarding job market conditions for the Swiss. The SVP called it “a betrayal of voters’ wishes” and unconstitutional, while the EU commission celebrated the “hugely watered-down version of the initiative.

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The SVP, this time around, will include language in the referendum that outright calls for Switzerland to ignore these international agreements, but Swiss business interests and the country’s left-liberal bloc are likely to put up a serious fight should the referendum win.

SPV argues that immigration does not equal endless growth

The current Western model promotes the idea of endless GDP growth through mass immigration. More immigrants equal more consumers, more housing construction springing up across the countryside, and more Third World peoples adopting a First World lifestyle.

Left-liberal and Green parties across the Western world have simultaneously called for Europeans to have fewer children to save the environment, while promoting mass immigration from Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries, with these newcomers known for their notoriously high birth rates. At the same time, countries like Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom are breaking population records due to immigration, leading to a severe strain on the environment and social welfare models within these European nations — a development that has been rejected by only a handful of nations such as Denmark and Hungary.

The right, if it wants to survive, may have to tie environmental causes and climate change, which the youth of Europe overwhelmingly believe is occurring, to soaring population growth through immigration. The Swiss referendum may be a nod to a growing reality. Any referendum that calls for immigration restriction is likely to fail given the growing pro-migration youth vote, but if it can be tied to green causes, such a referendum may have a chance.

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Futhermore, the SVP argues that this endless population growth model is not only unsustainable, but actually will not result in the desired outcome of endless economic growth.

SVP National Councilor Manuel Strupler states that purely “quantitative” immigration does not guarantee higher per capita growth. Furthermore, this type of immigration “dilutes” the values ​​of Switzerland.

“At some point, someone will have to pay the costs of our current policy. We have a duty to the next generation to preserve the values ​​that have made Switzerland successful”

Thomas Matter argues that population growth has actually reached the point of harming economic growth and will help push the country into recession. He says that while the population will increase by 2.5 percent in 2022, per capita income will only rise by 2 percent:

“They want us to believe that immigration rhymes with growth. But in reality, we are heading towards a recession,” he said.

He notes that France and Germany have closed their borders to illegal immigration from Switzerland, with Switzerland increasingly seen as a transit country. He warns that “a disaster is brewing.”

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