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Civil Unrest and Discrimination in Switzerland

When you’re thinking of moving to Switzerland, the topic of safety may not be at the top of your list of things to worry about. Switzerland consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world. However, InterNations has put together some tips on what to watch out for in Switzerland.
Demonstrations often take place outside the United Nations building in Geneva.

Political Demonstrations: Calm and Common

Demonstrations are a very common occurrence in Switzerland, normally sparked by changes in foreign policy or global trade issues. The majority of these demonstrations take place in close proximity to the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, both in Geneva. While these tend to be peaceful demonstrations, the police are always armed and are authorized to use water cannons or deploy tear gas if necessary.

Avoiding these areas when a demonstration is taking place is advised, and expats should stay clear of any situation that is likely to turn violent.

Discrimination: An Accepting Nation?


Switzerland, like the rest of Europe, has recently had to adapt to a sudden influx of refugees. It is estimated that over 31,000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, came to Switzerland in 2015. Although there are few reports of crimes or violence against refugees, the recent report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerances (ECRI) highlighted that the support provided for the integration of migrants is insufficient.

The political discourse in Switzerland is said to be sometimes xenophobic, and expats currently living in Switzerland often say that it is difficult to settle in. In response to the Expat Insider 2016, 36% of expats living in Switzerland said that the Swiss people’s attitude towards foreign residents is generally unfriendly.

LGBT Issues

When it comes to politics, it’s not only foreigners who are said to be discriminated against. It is also argued by many that the political discourse in Switzerland is sometimes homophobic and transphobic. There is a lack of LGBT-focused programs in Switzerland and, although same-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership, they cannot get married or adopt children. Switzerland is lagging behind most of the rest of Western Europe in terms of LGBT rights, ranking 23rd out of 49 countries in the Rainbow Europe report.

Although violent acts against minority groups are rare in Switzerland, it is considered to be falling behind the rest of Europe with its lack of anti-discrimination laws and equal rights. 


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