Switzerland: Some success for integration contracts
Integration contracts for migrants, introduced two years ago, have had some success in Switzerland - but there is still room for improvement, a study has found.
Some cantons have taken a harder tack than others. Meanwhile, critics have warned that migrants should not be forced to integrate.
The cantons of Basel City, Basel Country, Solothurn, Zurich and Aargau signed up to the pilot project in 2008, the evaluation of which was presented in Zurich on Thursday.
An integration contact is made between a migrant and a canton, which is responsible for integration matters under the Swiss federal system.
It defines the migrant’s aims, such as attaining a language fluency level or attending an integration course. If these goals are not reached, sanctions may be imposed. People from around 45 nations have been involved so far.
Study leader Eva Tov, of the Northwestern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, said that while all five cantons wanted better integration, they had chosen different paths.
“Basel City focused on the population already living in Switzerland which has some integration problems and Zurich focused on people who are just arriving,” she told swissinfo.ch.
“You could say that Zurich has a preventative focus but Basel City has a repairing focus,” Tov said.
The study did not, however, recommend the contracts for all foreigners, who make up around 20 per cent of the population. Most take integration measures on their own.
Target groups included foreign residents with an “integration deficit” or newcomers who might find it hard to adjust.
The study found that 76 per cent of contract signees were female, some of whom lead isolated lives. Canton Solothurn has flagged up marriages of Swiss men to women from South and Central America or Southeast Asia as a particular issue.
These could produce “an astoundingly high” number of problems, representative Albert Weibel said. Some Swiss men were even against their wives integrating, he added.
Non-governmental organisations have mixed views on the contracts. “What we find good is the work towards national recommendations on integration,” Adrian Hauser, head of communications at the Swiss Refugee Council, told swissinfo.ch.
“Where we see problems is how it is putting pressure on people. This only affects a small target group and mostly people who already have private problems like a divorce, and we see a problem if you put these people under even more pressure with these contracts.”
For Hauser, the recommendations are not new – his organisation had similar findings in a 2007 report - but he did support the emphasis on dialogue and offering a welcome.
But he was concerned that some groups, such as Africans, might end up with more contracts, leading to even more stigmatisation. A general approach is therefore not really viable.
“We want a case by case approach to integration, tailored to the personal situation of the person involved,” he said.
Source: SwissInfo (English)