The contentious migration pact

Mark Herkenrath, Director Alliance Sud
Article as analysis
Swiss politics has painted an unworthy picture in recent weeks. The bickering over the UN's well-balanced declaration of intent gives a foretaste of the 2019 election year.

Although the next elections to the Federal Parliament will not be held before October next, the election campaign has already begun. Its first victim is the UN migration pact. Because they are unwilling simply to leave the national-conservative segment of the electorate to the SVP, the FDP and much of the CVP are also railing against the legally non-binding document, which is no more than a well-considered declaration of intent by the United Nations.

The critics of the pact pretend to be concerned about jobs, the accomplishments of the welfare state and the cultural identity of the Swiss people. But they are merely adding fuel to the fire. One particularly popular – and particularly misleading – claim is that the pact would further fuel mass migration from developing countries, especially from Africa. What mass migration from Africa is this referring to?

A few facts would be a useful input to the current political debate. Did you know, for example, that some 83 per cent of all immigrants to Switzerland come from Europe and another 4 per cent from the USA and Canada? People with African passports make up a mere 1.3 per cent of Switzerland's resident population. For 2017, the net number of persons migrating to Switzerland from Africa was 4,307. This represents a mere 0.0007 African immigrants per capita of the Swiss population.

Switzerland is therefore a country of immigration almost exclusively for Europeans. Young people from African and other third world countries wishing to improve their life prospects generally cannot afford to travel to Switzerland. And their employment prospects in Switzerland are almost zero. Any attempt to significantly slow down immigration to Switzerland would require the cancellation of the agreement with the EU on freedom of movement. The SVP are the sole advocates of this. Their popular initiative – at least clearly formulated this time – will be opposed by the FDP and CVP for good reason.

Migration is no more a Sunday stroll than is integration a walk in the park. But no one is making such a claim. What is known in contrast – and supported by numerous studies – is that migration is of considerable economic benefit to destination countries, and that through remittances, knowledge transfer and increased trading relations, it also helps enhance well-being in countries of origin.

The new UN migration pact aspires to organize migration such that no country is overwhelmed, all stakeholders can derive the greatest possible benefit and migrants are protected against exploitation. It is particularly worrying that for now, Switzerland has turned its back on this judicious cause for reasons of electoral strategy.