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Swiss ploy to ban Italian workers 'not racist'

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An increasing number of Italians have emigrated to Switzerland, with 10,000 making the move in 2013. Swiss flag photo: Shutterstock
11:16 CET+01:00
A Swiss town's campaign to hire only local residents has been interpreted as anti-Italian, but the local mayor has said the decision is anything but racist.

Under the new measure, shoppers in Claro, in the canton of Ticino, are now confronted with a new pro-Swiss slogan: “We employ staff [who are] residents” logo.

The mark of merit is also accompanied by business owners reporting the percentage of Swiss staff they hire, Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday.

The new campaign has been interpreted as being anti-Italian, owing to the high number of people who cross the border from Italy to work in Switzerland.

“The initiative will inevitably appear unpleasant, particularly as seen by Italians,” the town’s mayor, Roberto Keller, was quoted as saying. “But we have adopted a transparent point of view. Racism doesn’t come into it.”

Keller was prompted to roll out the campaign due to growing unemployment and following discussions with his constituents.

“A lot of people have for some time repeated: they would be prepared to pay a few francs more for goods or services if they at least knew that they would go to enriching the Ticino economy and not Italy’s,” he said.

But according to the new mayor, the new measure by no means excludes Italians: “The appeal is to hire residents, which doesn’t necessarily mean Swiss people but also foreigners that live permanently in Ticino [the Swiss canton]. It’s above all a question of balance.”

Despite a long history of people from Switzerland’s neighbouring countries crossing the border for work, the phenomenon has recently led to resentment over foreign employees.

There has also been an increase in the number of Italians emigrating to Switzerland; 10,000 made the move in 2013 while just 3,000 returned the same year, according to statistics agency Istat.

The Swiss narrowly voted in favour of capping immigration from the EU in February last year, with the strongest support for the measure coming from Ticino voters.

The cap is now facing two years of negotiations between Bern and Brussels.

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