North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Switzerland wrestles with immigration

Switzerland is a mountainous country set in the middle of Western Europe, maintaining a studied, though cordial, distinctiveness from its neighbors for the past several hundred years. Today, for example, Switzerland is not a European Union country, and in World War II and I, maintained an armed neutrality that irritated allied forces, yet provided some space for safe havens, and lines of communications between the belligerents.

Switzerland, with a population of around 8 million, is prosperous, respected, and intriguing to Teatree as each citizen, statistically, reportedly consumes more than 19 lbs of chocolate per year. Factoid and photo from

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Switzerland is also one of the most visited countries of the world due to its storied mountainous terrain. Photo from

According to a Reuters article, "Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly backed proposals to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union, Swiss television reported - a result that calls into question bilateral accords with the EU and could irk multinational companies. While neutral Switzerland is not a member of the EU, its immigration policy is based on free movement of citizens to and from the EU, with some exceptions, as well as allowing in a restricted number of non-EU citizens.

That pact on free movement of people, which came into force 12 years ago, was signed as part of a package of agreements with the EU, some of which could now be in danger of unraveling, to say nothing of the effect on a globally oriented economy that employs large numbers of foreign professionals."

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A poster against the ‘mass immigration initiative’, in Lausanne Switzerland, depicting the fear than unlimited immigration would undermine Swiss "alpine culture." Photo from

The article continues, "In a nail-biting vote, 50.3 percent backed the "Stop mass immigration" initiative, which also won the required majority approval in more than half of Swiss cantons or regions, Swiss television said. The outcome obliges the government to turn the initiative, spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), into law within three years.

It reflects growing concern among the Swiss population that immigrants are eroding the nation's distinctive Alpine culture and contributing to rising rents, crowded transport and more crime. Net immigration runs at around 70,000 people per year on average. Foreigners make up 23 percent of the population of 8 million, second in Europe only to Luxembourg."

So, the margin of the win was razor-thin, reflecting perhaps more of the torn-nature of the Swiss over the issue than a clear direction. According the Reuters article, "The provisions of the initiative require the restriction of residence permits for foreign nationals, including cross-border commuters and asylum seekers, according to quotas, the government said in a statement. These limits will now need to be defined at a legislative level ..." But the specifics are left for discussion, and three years into the future for implementation.

Immigration and borders are stressed around the world

The multiple issues of national identity, culture, assimilation, and border control are not limited to the Swiss. The US has long been embroiled in the concerns over Mexican and Central American immigration along its southern border.

The irony behind America's current debate over illegal immigration. Graphic from un-named facebook source ...

Illegal immigration is usually one where a country resists inflows into its national space, the most graphic exception was during the Soviet Union, where citizens within the workers paradise were closely watched to prevent their leaving.

In this famous picture, East German soldier, Conrad Schuman, leaps to freedom in West Berlin in August 1961. Photo from

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Far from elections and effective governance, the latest surge of immigration is into Chad from the horrific violence in neighboring Central African Republic. Here, Muslim citizens chaotically gather into convoys to leave their CAR homeland under Chadian armed escort. They are suffering retribution for the brief but savage misrule by a now-deposed Islamic leader who brutalized Christians in the CAR during much of 2013. Photo from

The examples of border tensions are everywhere - Australia and Southeast Asia neighbors; North Africa to Southern Europe, Eastern Europe to Western Europe, etc. Borders and visions of greater freedoms or flight from persecution do not mix well.

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Another surge of immigration (or in this case, emigration from the Syrian civil war) creates the danger of permanent refugee camps. Here, Syrian refugees in a Turkey camp, protected by, one assumes, Turkish soldiers. Photo from

Assuming there is a reasonable responsive governance to begin with, Teatree tends to side with stronger border controls linked with generous legal immigration quotas. The absence of which places illegal immigrants at risk in any country where though they contribute to the specific nation's economy, yet they are "second class" - without access to the full complement of citizens rights: voting,citizenship papers, social security benefits, etc.

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