There is still a certain feeling of unease in the central Swiss town of Emmen whenever the issue of foreigners and naturalisations is raised in public.
The industrial suburb of Lucerne was at the heart of a debate which led the country's highest court to outlaw secret ballots on citizenship applications five years ago. The rightwing Swiss People's Party is hoping to overturn the ruling in a nationwide vote on June 1.
Between 1999 and 2003, voters in Emmen rejected 97 applicants who met all the criteria for a Swiss passport. Most of them came originally from the former Yugoslavia.
Beat Marti, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats, confirms there was a lot of prejudice against candidates from the Balkan region at the time.
After the applications were turned down in Emmen, several complaints were lodged at the Federal Court, which later ordered the local authorities to suspend naturalisations via ballot box decisions.
Since then elected members of a special committee have dealt with citizenship applications.
The 2003 Federal Court ruling had an impact of many local authorities in the Lucerne region. They set up special panels to re-examine decisions by public assemblies which are still legal.
"The committees do a good job," says Peter Wicki a barrister who defended rejected candidates at the Federal Court.
"Most communes do not want to go back to the old system even in towns and villages where the People's Party is the strongest political group," he says.
But Social Democrat Marti is disillusioned and remains sceptical about the future.
He says in the past the centre-left often refused to acknowledge widespread public concern about immigrants.
"The myth of a multicultural society in Switzerland has been debunked. The different communities don't mix, they live side by side," he says
Source: Swiss Info (English)
See also: Switzerland: Veil no obstacle to citizenship