In the wake of the Oprah handbag scandal, one would think that Switzerland would attempt to taper their race issues down just a little. Enough to regain a little bit of respect in the eyes of the world. However, not a week after that scandal erupted, a more serious problem developed in Switzerland's shining reputation: This week, authorities announced that, with the opening of a new asylum seekers' center in a town outside Zurich, asylum seekers will not be allowed anywhere near specific areas in town for the sake of "peaceful coexistence," including churches, libraries, and a public swimming pool.
The town in question is Bremgarten, some 12 miles west of Zurich. Bremgarten authorities opened a new center, converted from an old military base, with 150 beds. Intended to solve the temporary housing problem, the asylum seekers were also given a list of 32 "exclusion zones" of which they were not allowed access without permission from authorities. These zones, along with those mentioned above, read off like places a sex offender is told to stay away from: School playgrounds, community halls, elderly centers, and others.
In addition to these exclusion zones, there have been other restrictions put in place by Swiss voters prior to today's announcement. Army deserters or conscientious objectors can no longer seek asylum, for example, and asylum seekers can no longer file for asylum at Swiss embassies, and must file in Switzerland itself, which is a far more risky and expensive endeavor for them.
Swiss authorities are attempting to defend this situation through the use of euphemism. Urs von Däniken, speaking for the Swiss migration office, claims to mark these areas "in the interests of peaceful coexistence between society and asylum seekers." Problem is, almost all the exclusion zones happen to be areas where people gather as well, which one would think is necessary to foster a peaceful coexistence between Swiss citizens and asylum-seekers.
Let's just call these Swiss "exclusion zones" as what they are: Segregated areas. This de facto segregation does not actually create a means of peaceful coexistence, as we Americans have sadly demonstrated in the past. It merely fosters conflict by isolating the "other" into areas where they cannot be seen, only for said "other" to strike back at being unable to move freely, not to mention it makes for an easier target for violent racists to attack with accuracy. The situation, reputation, and stability in Switzerland will only deteriorate through such segregation.
Unfortunately, not only is this not the first time that this policy has been put in place, but it also will not be the last: Many other asylum centers in the country that are due to open will also face similar "exclusion zones" in the near future.