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Swiss Eco Group Forces Immigration Vote

Philippe Roch (R) from the Ecopop group.

A left-wing environmentalist group opposed to all forms of racism and xenophobia has been able to get a national immigration referendum on the ballot in Switzerland.

The Environment and Population Association, or Ecopop group, successfully argued that overpopulation from massive immigration is putting undue pressure on Switzerland’s finite natural resources.

“The pressure on land, nature and the countryside is considerable, and quality of life is continuously deteriorating due to a lack of living space,” Ecopop member Philippe Roch told the BBC. Roch is also a former director of Switzerland’s Federal Environment Office.

The group wants annual population growth through immigration capped at 0.2% and a tenth of foreign aid to be used for birth control measures abroad.

Ecopop members gathering signatures

More than 120,700 certified signatures, far above the minimum 100,000, were gathered to get the referendum on the ballot on November 2. Although no date for the vote has been set yet, should the initiative clear other administrative and legal hurdles, it will likely take place in 2015.

Switzerland’s population has risen by some 15-percent since 1990. It currently has a population of eight million, with a quarter of them being foreigners.

“Switzerland currently has one of the densest populations on the planet, with 480 inhabitants per square kilometre in ‘Mittelland’,” or central Switzerland, Ecopop leader Andreas Thommen told AFP, insisting “this development is not at all sustainable in the long-term.”

The Swiss government re-imposed immigration limits on the so-called “A8″ EU nations – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia - last April. After the 2,000-a-year cap expired in 2011, numbers from those countries exploded to 6,000. Many from the relatively-poor countries are attracted to Switzerland due to its low unemployment rate, which is currently 2.9-percent.

Ecopop logo

Switzerland’s population has is 3.0-percent more now than it was in November 2011, due completely to immigration.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party has also been able to get an immigration referendum on the ballot.

Ecopop was founded in 1971, with a mission of protecting Founded in 1971, Ecopop says its mission is to protect the environment by restricting immigration and slowing down population growth.

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