Churches' body concerned over Swiss vote for immigration restrictions

By agency reporter
12 Feb 2014

Following the recent Swiss referendum, with the majority of votes backing restrictions on immigration from European Union (EU) countries, the World Council of Churches' General Secretary has warned of “adverse effects” from this development on the WCC and other international organisations in Switzerland.

“We stand with our member churches here in Switzerland who have made it clear that Switzerland needs to continue being a place that welcomes the stranger,” said the WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, on Monday in Geneva, where the WCC headquarters are based.

The referendum held in Switzerland on 9 February 2014 showed 50.3 per cent votes in favour of strict quotas for immigration, which can impact the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement.

Switzerland is not a European Union member, but it has adopted large portions of EU policy.

Dr Tveit said that “there are other potential ramifications to this vote that could adversely affect the WCC and other international organisations working in Geneva and throughout Switzerland.”

“We depend on the diversity of our staff and the gifts they bring to represent our global fellowship of churches. To be able to maintain this, we need to learn more from the Geneva and Swiss authorities about the impact of the law,” he added.

The vote has been regretted by Belgium and comes amid increasing debate across Europe about migration and its effects on free movement of people.

Analysts point out that restricting free movement of people will limit Switzerland's access to Europe's single market, where over half of its exports are sold.

* WCC member churches in Switzerland: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/europe/switzerland

* More on migration from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/migration

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