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Switzerland votes in referendum to ease citizenship rules

Swiss voters have approved a relaxation of their country’s citizenship rules.

In a referendum on Sunday, they backed a proposal to simplify naturalisation for third-generation immigrants.

That means those born in Switzerland whose grandparents moved there will have an easier route to gaining nationality.

Under the current system, they had faced a lengthy and often expensive procedure.

Around a quarter of Switzerland’s population is foreign.

The change was backed by the government and parliament. But far-right parties argued that it would pose a security risk and raised the spectre of so-called “Islamisation” with provocative posters showing a burqa-clad woman.

Among the about 24,000 potential beneficiaries are primarily people from Italy, Spain and Portugal, according to experts.

Under the approved reform of the country’s citizenship’s law, applicants aged between nine and 25 have to submit a formal request to the federal government but would be spared time-consuming and costly examination by the cantonal and local authorities.

The candidates must have at least five years of regular schooling in Switzerland and a valid residence permit.

Requests for facilitated citizenship are also subject to a set of conditions for the parents and grandparents of the so-called ‘third generation’ immigrants.

Citizenship in Switzerland is determined by the nationality of the parents of a child, and not by the place of birth.

Reacting to the result of the referendum, the Swiss government called on young third generation immigrants to “use the opportunity” voters gave them today.

In a separate referendum on Sunday, Swiss voters rejected plans to overhaul the corporate tax system.

Felix Dappah


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