No vacancies: this May, citizens of many former-Eastern Bloc EU countries gained unlimited access to Switzerland's labour market, when final restrictions were lifted as part of the Bilateral II treaty with the EU. While the Swiss economy profits from this freedom of movement act, many Swiss are concerned about the consequences of unlimited migration.

AuteurGallinelli, Sven
Fonction News feature

For many Swiss newspapers, the passing of the final phase of the Freedom of Movement and Residence Act into law warranted little more than a footnote. Now, it isn't only citizens of the so-called "old EU-countries" who can take up employment and residency in Switzerland, but those from newer EU member-nations like Poland and Slovakia as well. The only countries still waiting for migration limits to be lifted are Bulgaria and Romania, for whom the Swiss government extended the transition period until 2014.


A question of crime

Many Swiss are concerned by any further relaxation of immigration limits. Among these concerns is the question of safety: what does it mean for the crime rates in Switzerland, when people can move unhindered across national borders throughout Europe?

"Unfortunately, the correlation between crime rates and migration from the EU to Switzerland has not been examined yet," Marie Avet, press officer at the Federal Office of Migration told Swiss News. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Federal Statistics Office said, "crime rates over the years look stable".

In some cities, crime has even been falling since the first phase of the Freedom of Movement Act with the EU was introduced in 2007. In Canton Zurich, for example, the number offences dropped from 142,000 (2002) to 108,220 (2010). In contrast, the crime rate in Geneva went in the opposite direction: from 47,185 (2002) to 61,910 (2010).

Inconclusive figures

But are Geneva's problems the result of increased migration from the EU? Answering this question is far from straightforward: in 2009, the way in which crime statistics were recorded was changed. These changes mean that the statistics are now more detailed: a crime that formerly just counted as one offence, could now be categorised as several offences. This has led to a slight increase in crime rates and has made it impossible to compare current statistics with pre-2009 figures.

"On top of that," the Federal Office of Statistics explained, "there is criminal tourism. This is people travelling from other countries to commit crime in Switzerland." Put simply, because these people are not registered here, they are not subject to the Freedom of Movement Act. "We still need to wait a couple of years to see if there are any similarities between the Freedom of Movement Act and crime rates," the spokesperson added.

However, it is not only crime rates worrying many Swiss. Rather, it is the explosion in...

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