Swiss voters back expulsion of foreign criminals
Swiss voters have backed a referendum proposal for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss citizens for certain crimes.
Around 53% agreed that those convicted of crimes ranging from murder to benefit fraud should be deported.
Fabrice Moscheni, of the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), which drew up the measure, said "people we welcome in Switzerland should respect the rules of this country".
But opponents said it was another example of increasing xenophobia.
The SVP was behind last year's referendum that imposed a ban on the building of Islamic minarets. That decision was condemned by human rights groups and foreign governments.
The SVP says immigrants to Switzerland are disproportionately responsible for crime. It points to the fact that more than 60% of prison inmates do not have Swiss nationality.
But opponents say the measures go too far. The children of immigrants do not automatically get Swiss citizenship, so the rule would mean sending some people who were born and brought up in Switzerland to countries they know nothing of.
Convicts would serve their sentence in Switzerland first and then be deported without appeal.
The Swiss government believes mandatory deportation could violate Switzerland's obligations under international law not to send people to countries that practise torture or execution.
It advised voters to reject the proposal, and it put forward an alternative system which would allow deportation for certain crimes, but which would assess cases individually. That was defeated.
'Statement against foreigners'
The SVP has been accused of using racist posters that depict certain ethnic groups as criminal.
The Swiss political analyst Georg Lutz says the SVP's wider strategy is to capitalise on Swiss worries that the foreign population is too big.
"This vote is not about some complex legal issues about how to deal with certain types of criminal foreigners," he says.
"What most people will want to do in this vote is make a statement against foreigners, and that is the central motivation."
A second referendum, which asked the Swiss to approve a minimum tax rate of 22% for people earning more than 250,000 francs (£160,000; 190,000 euros), was rejected.
The Socialist Party said it would be more just, but the government and centre-right parties said it would harm the economy by making the country less appealing to foreign businessmen.