GENEVA — Swiss voters yesterday approved a plan to automatically deport foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud, in a significant victory for the nationalist party that pushed the proposal against the will of the government.
Some 52.9 percent of voters backed the proposal put forward by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, or SVP, according to Swiss national broadcaster SF1.
A government-backed counterproposal failed. It would have required case-by-case review by a judge before a deportation.
“I’m totally for it,’’ said Emma Link after casting her vote in Geneva. The 86-year-old blamed foreigners for what she said was rising crime in Switzerland, adding that she had recently been robbed.
The SVP plan drew fire before yesterday’s referendum from legal experts who said it could breach offenders’ human rights.
Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, said people who had lived all their life in Switzerland, married Swiss citizens and had children, but never obtained Swiss passports, would be unusually hard hit by expulsion.
Under Switzerland’s unique political system, any group wanting to change the law can collect 100,000 signatures to force a referendum. Last year the country drew international condemnation after voters defied a government recommendation and approved a law to ban the construction of minarets.
The government will now have to draft a law requiring automatic expulsion of foreigners found guilty of crimes such as murder, rape, and drug dealing.
Kohen predicted the law would be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.