Saturday, August 10, 2013

Switzerland indebted to asylum-seekers

Switzerland, a small landlocked European country known for its corrupt banking system that provides safe haven for tax evaders and corrupt third world dictators is building another shameful reputation - a reputation of racism.

The Swiss Confederation has been on the news lately for wrong reasons, including racism against U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey and a controversial policy of segregation of asylum-seekers.

Some towns in Switzerland plan to segregate asylum-seekers from the general public. According to a BBC report, asylum-seekers will be kept away from public places such as libraries, swimming pools, playing fields, vicinity of schools and a church in the town of Bremgarten.

Human rights groups have branded the policy "racist" and likened it to apartheid in South Africa. It's hard to disagree with their assessment.

In my view, the policy is glaringly racist, restricts asylum-seekers freedom of movement and designed to undermine the right to seek asylum as laid down in the Refugee Convention, which Switzerland ratified in January 1955. Mindful of the global demographics of asylum-seekers, the policy is racist because it seeks to keep people of a certain race, ethnicity and color away from certain areas in Switzerland.

It is true that in Europe, Switzerland has the highest number of asylum-seekers per head of population. But it is also true that racism and segregation are not solutions to a "refugee crisis."

Looted money

Switzerland banks looted money from some of the countries where refugees originate, thereby providing support for dictators whose actions and policies force people to flee.

In my opinion, Switzerland aids and abets corruption in the developing world, and benefits from the spoils of bad governance and dictatorships in the region through its banking system. The country should be ready to accommodate those negatively impacted by the negative consequences of its secretive banking system.

According to an article on the New York Times, Swiss banks identified 470 million Swiss francs ($511 million) in accounts of Tunisian and Egyptian politicians and 360 million Swiss francs ($391 million) of Libyan assets following the "Arab Spring." The looted funds in question could have provided a better life for people in affected countries.

Rather than support a racist government-backed policy, the people of Switzerland should ask their government and those in position of power in the country's banking sector to stop providing safe haven for money looted by corrupt dictators who make countries in the developing world unlivable for millions of people - many of whom end up fleeing to Switzerland.

*Image of anti-immigration poster by right-wing Swiss People's Party: BBC

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