Recent controversial changes to Swiss asylum law will be put to a national vote. A group of organisations and parties opposed to the changes voted by the Swiss parliament in September 2012, handed in 63,000 signatures on Thursday to force a national referendum. The law’s opponents are especially critical of revisions stipulating that people can no longer apply for asylum at Swiss embassies abroad and that conscientious objectors and deserters will no longer be considered for asylum status.

The changes to Switzerland’s asylum policy, which are already in effect because parliament considered them urgent and voted on them in September 2012, will last until the end of September 2015. If the Swiss people vote against the changes, they will only be in effect until September 2013. The asylum law revisions also allow for the creation of special centres for unruly asylum seekers already in the country as well as tests of various procedures to speed up asylum requests. Furthermore, federal authorities are allowed to provide accommodation for asylum seekers for up to three years without asking explicit permission from cantonal authorities.

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