November 19, 2014 / 4:08 PM / in 3 years

Majority of Swiss oppose strict immigration limits ahead of vote: poll

ZURICH (Reuters) - Most Swiss voters oppose proposals to place strict limits on immigration but support is rising before this month’s national vote on the issue, a closely-watched survey showed on Wednesday.

Members of the committee 'No Ecopop' initiative place banners ahead a news conference in Bern October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

The initiative, launched by environmentalist group Ecopop and opposed by the government, seeks to cap the number of new immigrants at just 0.2 percent of the resident population, equivalent to about 16,000 people per year. It would also earmark 10 percent of Switzerland’s overseas development aid budget for family planning.

Fifty-six percent of Swiss voters plan to oppose the initiative on Nov. 30, according to Berne-based research institute gfs.bern, down 2 percentage points from its Oct. 24 poll.

Some 39 percent of voters support the proposal, up 4 points but still far short of the majority needed for the initiative to be accepted. Five percent did not know how they would vote or did not answer in the poll, conducted in partnership with Swiss broadcaster SRG.

Nearly 10 months ago, Switzerland narrowly backed proposals to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union. Supporters of this month’s referendum see it as a chance to put pressure on the government to follow through on its obligation to implement the February vote.

Opponents say the Ecopop proposal would endanger bilateral accords with the EU on trade, agriculture and economic and technological co-operation.

The Ecopop camp says there is too much pressure on land and natural resources in Switzerland, tapping into growing concern among residents frustrated by rising rents and crowded public transport.

Immigration into Switzerland has been high in recent decades and foreigners account for nearly a quarter of the 8 million population.

Also up for a vote on Nov. 30 is a proposal to prohibit the Swiss National Bank from selling any of its gold reserves, and an initiative to scrap Switzerland’s flat tax rule.

The gfs.bern poll found 46 percent of voters opposed the tax initiative, which is backed by Switzerland’s left-wing Social Democrats, outnumbering the 42 percent who supported it.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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