You know what worries me? When governments announce the restriction of certain groups’ access to public spaces, and justify it by saying that they’re preventing a scenario in which “[the dangerous minority in question] could meet our schoolchildren.”
In this instance, the dangerous minority is asylum seekers, and the government is Switzerland, which has historically been extremely generous to refugees.
The Swiss town of Bremgarten, which is the site of a new asylum seeker reception center, has designated 32 “exclusion zones” where the center’s residents will be forbidden to enter. Town officials told The Independent that “refugees would not be allowed to ‘loiter’ in school playgrounds and would be banned from visiting public swimming pools, playing fields and a church.” Also on the list: the public library, because god forbid scary refugees get their hands on any book learnin’.
The mayors of two other Swiss towns where additional centers will open have signaled their intentions to follow Bremgarten’s example, and ban asylum seekers from “sensitive areas.” (Again, like the library.)
Local and international human rights groups have denounced the rules as blatantly discriminatory, but the national government is backing Bremgarten. According to the head of the Swiss Federal Office of Migration, Mario Gattiker: ”We need rules to ensure a peaceful and orderly coexistence of residents and asylum-seekers.”
These developments follow a referendum showing that nearly 80% of Swiss voters backed a new law limiting the availability of asylum.
Two thoughts on this:
(1) Bremgarten’s center, where the first asylum seekers moved in on Monday, can hold 150 people, and currently houses a handful of Tibetans and Sudanese, including one child. Not exactly a ravening Mongol horde, you know?
(2) Switzerland is way out in the international law weeds on this one. In addition to being hella racist (and therefore in violation of Switzerland’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)), these measures are likely a violation of the asylum seekers’ freedom of movement, which can only be restricted under a limited set of circumstances, like when necessary to protect national security, public order, or public health. I’m just not sure preventing delicate Swiss schoolchildren from seeing a Sudanese man in the swimming pool counts.
And in case this bums you out as much as it does me, here’s a cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba. There’s also a duckling. You’re welcome.