Switzerland’s Cabinet announced this week that it will draft a new law on immigration by the end of the year, after a narrow margin of victory meant voters approved a cap in a controversial referendum on 9 February (50.3%).
“Switzerland is on a slippery slope of isolating its students and academics from the outside world”
The ESU and Switzerland’s student union, VSS-UNES-USU, voiced fears that the restrictions “may affect both the future of international and Swiss students”, and called for international students to be excluded from the immigration cap.
The approved measures could conflict with the agreements Switzerland has with the EU concerning the free movement of persons, the termination of which could trigger the ending of other agreements, owing to a “Guillotine clause” linking seven bilateral agreements, ESU warned.
“This decision goes against the very foundation of the European Higher Education Area and could therefore have immense adverse effects for Switzerland,” Elisabeth Gehrke, Vice-Chairperson of ESU, said.
“Switzerland is on a slippery slope of isolating its students and academics from the outside world. This could have devastating effects that would be difficult to reverse,” she added.
ESU said that mobility platforms such as ERASMUS+, which contribute to the development of higher education institutions, would affect all universities in Europe.
VSS-UNES-USU have released flyers in German and French urging “No to the UDC’s initiative against mass immigration” and calling for “tolerance and diversity” in Swiss education.
Lea Meister, International Officer of VSS-UNES-USU, warned that the immigration measures would negatively impact Swiss education as a whole, “where it is key to have a strong international focus and cooperation with partner universities in joint research and mobility programmes.”
“By voting against free movement, Switzerland has shocked this fragile structure between both parties”, she said.