‘Fortress’ Switzerland? Challenges to Integrating Migrants, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

Sirius book

Please find below the abstract of the chapter devoted to discuss the swiss case part of the Sirius book “Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ Integration in European Labour Markets. A Comparative Approach on Legal Barriers and Enablers” edited by Veronica Federico and Simone Baglioni. The chapter is written by Maria M. Mexi, Paula Moreno Russi and Eva Fernández Guzman.


Switzerland is recognised as an immigration country. As in other European countries, awareness of the socio-economic costs of the non-integration of immigrants has led Swiss policy-makers to promote integration both as an individual duty (conditional on the requirements and individual responsibilities of a foreign person), as well as a policy priority for stakeholders at federal, cantonal, and communal levels. This pragmatic, yet in some cases restrictive, approach to integration has evolved gradually over time and has been strengthened by the divisive debates around foreigners that surrounded the 2014 initiative against mass immigration. In this context, we seek to provide a timely analysis of the evolving legal and policy framework that regulates the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers (MRAs) into the Swiss labour market and society. While we shed light on the development and changes pertaining to the relevant legislative and institutional framework, we also highlight key aspects that play an obstructing role to immigrants’ integration. Ultimately, we contend that not only certain legislative and administrative aspects, but also direct democratic instruments have provided important disabling barriers to migrants’ integration as they have not effectively managed to challenge ‘Fortress’ actualities and exclusionary trajectories of boundary construction.