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    Swiss MP Questions Loyalty of Dual Citizens, Calls for End of Joint Nationality

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    Swiss People's Party (SVP) MP Erich Hess, has spoken out against the system of dual citizenship, which currently allows Swiss nationals to keep their original nationality when they become citizens, on the basis such individuals may not be "fully committed" to Switzerland.

    Speaking in a parliamentary debate, Mr. Hess said Swiss nationals "should choose which country for which their heart beats" to prove they are truly integrated. He also criticized dual nationals' receipt of benefits regular Swiss citizens cannot get — for example, more easily obtaining work permits and welfare benefits in their second country of citizenship. Switzerland should, he suggested follow the example of European countries such as Austria, force foreign citizens to renounce citizenship of their home country when they are naturalized. 

    However, the MP's statements were derided by other parliamentarians, including Cedric Wermuth from the Social Democratic Party, who said forcing people to choose Switzerland over their foreign nationality would be "absurd," and holding dual nationality doesn't make someone "bad Swiss."

    ​Having citizens with double nationality can even be advantageous for Switzerland, he added, saying often dual nationals helped disseminate a positive image of Switzerland in their "other" nations. 

    The debate arose in the Swiss parliament ahead of the February 12 referendum on whether it will be made easier for third generation immigrants to become Swiss. Swiss citizenship is not automatically conferred on anyone born in Switzerland — if someone's grandparents were immigrants and did not obtain citizenship, third generation immigrants could have been born in Switzerland and have lived here their whole lives without having Swiss citizenship. 

    The initiative is strongly opposed by the SVP, who have helped launch a controversial, combative opposition campaign. It has used a series of billboards depicting women in Burqas to ‘warn' voters of the potential ramifications of letting the bill pass, but critics have argued they are misleading, as the law would primarily apply to non-Muslim citizens, primarily Italians and Spaniards, who have lived in Switzerland their whole lives.

    Others have questioned the tack of conducting such a campaign in the wake of the December mosque shooting in Zurich.

    Police stand outside an Islamic center in central Zurich, Switzerland December 19, 2016
    © REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann
    Police stand outside an Islamic center in central Zurich, Switzerland December 19, 2016

    ​Migration expert Gianni D'Amato at the University of Neuchatel said that to force people to choose would be "an obstacle to integration."

    "Candidates for naturalization shouldn't put part of their identity and their history in the closet. That would be embarrassing for many. It would be a shame to make people give up. Studies show the naturalization process contributes to integration" Mr. D'Amato said.

    According to official figures, around 870,000 Swiss have two passports — there are 560,000 Swiss living abroad with another nationality.

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    naturalization, immigrants, referendum, nation, passport, parliament, debate, nationality, dual-citizenship, Swiss People’s Party, Erich Hess, Europe, Switzerland
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