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Africans have highest criminal conviction rates in Switzerland

According to a new report of the Swiss news agency Keystone, residents from the former Yugoslavia are the most frequently convicted of crimes in Switzerland in absolute numbers. However, measured per 1,000 inhabitants, South West Africans, West Africans and North Africans, in that order, are the most frequently convicted.

Quoting the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Keystone reported on Tuesday that, of non-Swiss residents with B and C residence permits, South West Africans have a conviction rate of 31 per 1,000 for crimes and misdemeanours. West Africans come in at 21.2 and North Africans at 18.3, just ahead of the Caribbean states of Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

When the FSO first broke down the statistics on criminal convictions by nationality two years ago, Turkish citizens topped the list by some distance, the report says. Now, with a conviction rate of 9 per 1,000, they are almost as low as those from the former Yugoslavia at 7.9.

The Swiss, with a rate of 2.5, are by no means the most law-abiding citizens in Switzerland: Canadians, Swedes, Irish and Indians are convicted of criminal offences at a rate of only 1-1.5 per 1,000.

Drug and traffic offences

West Africans also have the highest conviction rate when it comes to drug offences: 900 were convicted for this in 2018. West Africans were followed by Albanians with almost 500 convictions. For both nationalities, the vast majority of convictions were handed down to 18- to 29-year-olds.

The statistics look slightly different for foreigners without a B and C permit. Of these, North Africans are the most frequently convicted in absolute numbers, followed by Romanians and French.

The picture is also different when it comes to traffic offences, where Switzerland’s neighbours – the French, Italians and Germans – leave other nationalities in the dust.


“Almost three out of every ten residents in Switzerland are people of foreign origin who have settled here legally and who are law-abiding just like the rest of the population,” said Marcelo Aebi, co-author of a study last year on prisons in Europe. He said this point in the statistics must be clarified to avoid speculation about foreigners committing crimes.

Many end up in custody because they are accused of committing other crimes as well as violations of the Aliens Act. Since they do not have a stable situation in Switzerland, they are detained until they are prosecuted to prevent their possible flight,” Aebi said.

Added to this group are undocumented migrants, who live and work illegally in Switzerland until they are uncovered by the authorities.

Adira Kallo with Keystone report

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