Swiss to hold immigration referendum on restricting country’s population to 10 million until 2050

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, a Swiss voter casts his ballot at a polling station as Swiss voters decide on a proposal to cap immigration to the Alpine republic, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, FILE)
By John Cody
3 Min Read

Switzerland will hold a referendum on whether to implement measures to ensure the country’s population does not exceed 10 million people after a right-wing party garnered enough signatures to initiate a public vote on stricter immigration controls.

The populist Swiss People’s Party (UDC) submitted to the Federal Chancellery on Wednesday a petition that complied with the requirements necessary for the government to call a referendum.

Under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, referenda on any issue can be called should a petition reach 100,000 signatures within 18 months of its launch. The UDC harvested 114,600 signatures in just nine months in its bid for the government to implement “sustainable demographic development” by ensuring the permanent resident population of Switzerland does not exceed 10 million people by 2050.

Under the proposal, the Swiss government would have to take urgent measures as soon as the permanent resident population exceeds 9.5 million by, for example, suspending the ability for migrants to obtain residence permits, Swiss citizenship, or any other right to stay in the country.

The move could also see Switzerland forced to withdraw from international treaties including its bilateral agreement with the European Union on free movement and the U.N. Global Compact for Migration.

Commenting on the collection of the signatures, UDC leader Marco Chiesa said he was “proud and honored” to fight for the future of Switzerland’s “direct democracy and the next generations.”

In a post on Facebook, the Swiss politicians said the initiative “serves to preserve our values: independence, direct democracy, sovereignty, and freedom. But it is also a policy in the municipalities that guarantees the safety, services, and well-being of all of us.”

“Since 2023, for the first time, more than 9 million people have been living in our country,” said UDC National Councilor and Group Chairman Thomas Aeschi. “Last year, an additional 98,851 people immigrated to our country. Added to this are more than 30,000 asylum seekers.”

The right-wing populist party said that rising immigration had resulted in “housing shortages and rising rents, traffic jams on the roads, crowded trains and buses, falling standards of schools, increasing violence and crime, electricity shortages, income stagnating per capita, ever-higher health insurance premiums, indebted social services, and increased pressure on the beauty of the landscape and the preservation of nature.”

The initiative is the latest attempt by the UDC to force the issue on immigration, having had a similar referendum rejected in 2020 to suspend the free movement of people with the European Union by 62 percent to 38.

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