Uproar forces Swiss town to drop 'apartheid' rules

  • From: "muslim-news.net" <muslim_affairs@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: news@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 22:24:10 +0000 (GMT)

Council barred asylum seekers from schools and sports grounds 
A Swiss town which introduced rules barring asylum seekers from some public 
areas, including schools and sports grounds, has been forced by public uproar 
and the danger of legal proceedings to draw back. 

Realising that its scheme may contravene the constitution and be vulernable to 
legal challenge, the town council of Meilen, near Zurich, in the 
German-speaking part of Switzerland, has decided to resort to informal measures 
instead, according to the newspaper which broke the story. 

Asylum seekers will be asked rather than compelled to keep out of certain parts 
of the town, and the police will step up their patrols in the town centre to 
appease citizens who say they are afraid of the newcomers, the Swiss newspaper 
Wochenzeitung says. 

The original plan voted through by the council was far more radical, resulting 
in the production of a colour-coded map of the town. 

Red areas, including schools and sports grounds, were strictly off-limits to 
asylum seekers; in green areas, which included the central square, they were 
not allowed to congregate in groups and would be dispersed immediately if they 

To add insult to injury the authorities stipulated that asylum seekers could 
not use the public swimming pool unless accompanied by a local resident or 

The map's explanatory key depicted four black men with a line through them to 
indicate no-go areas. 

The council argued that it was seriously concerned about drug-related crime and 
violence, and sought to protect the town's 11,500 inhabitants. 

Hans Isler, the council president and a member of the rightwing 
anti-immigration Swiss People's party, was unavailable for comment yesterday, 
but he is on record saying that he believes the plan would have been 
constructive and positive. 

His son confirmed the existence of the map."There are some zones where they can 
go and others where they can't," he said 

When Wochenzeitung broke the story it generated a storm of criticism. 

"It's an awful story. We couldn't believe it when we heard of it first," said 
Susanne Boos, a journalist on the paper. 

"The pressure from outside was so great that they had to cancel the project, 
but it will still happen unofficially." 

Peter Nideröst, a Zurich-based lawyer and vice-president of an organisation 
which helps asylum seekers, Solidarité sans Frontières, said he was still in a 
state of shock. 

"For me this was the first step to apartheid." If tolerated it could have 
sparked a chain reaction around the country, he added. 

"The next commune would say that asylum seekers can't use the bus or can't go 
to such and such a place, and so on." 

Nor, he claimed, had Meilen had any real problems with asylum seekers. It had 
only recently become a minor holding centre for the region, and asylum seekers 
stayed there for only a few months before being sent on elsewhere. 

He believed the main reason the authorities had backed down was the law. 

"It wouldn't have been in line with the Swiss constitution. That's quite 

Hostility towards immigrants and asylum seekers is becoming intense in 
Switzerland. In a referendum last month it rejected what would have been the 
toughest refugee and asylum rules in the industrialised world by a little under 
3,000 votes. 

It received 20,000 applications for asylum last year, compared to Britain's 
71,000, but its population is tiny - just 7m. This year, according to the 
authorities, applications are up almost 30% . 

Source:  The Guardian

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