Immigrants 'make up third' of Swiss population
GENEVA - Agence France-PresseFirst and second generation immigrants now make up more than a third of Switzerland's inhabitants over the age of 15, a significant increase in the past decade, statistics showed Thursday.
Most of the newcomers are European, with Italians and Germans making up the largest percentage at 11 percent each, followed by people of Portuguese and French origin.
The number of asylum seekers also rose 11 percent in 2014, other data showed.
In 2013, 2.4 million of the 6.8 million people above the age of 15 living in Switzerland had a migrant background, up from 1.7 million in 2003, according to data published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).
A full 80 percent were born abroad, while the remaining 20 percent were born in Switzerland to immigrant parents.
More than one third hold a Swiss passport, FSO said.
Getting nationality can be a lengthy process in Switzerland, and is not guaranteed to second or even third-generation immigrants, although discussions are underway to make it easier for grandchildren of migrants to receive the coveted Swiss passport.
Immigrants with no blood-ties to Swiss nationals through birth or marriage are meanwhile required to live in the country for at least a decade before applying, and even then must prove they are well-integrated and well-versed in Swiss languages, laws and customs.
The influx is having a clear impact on demographics in the wealthy Alpine nation, since the migrant population is significantly younger than their native counterparts, FSO said.
"This younger population is slowing down the ageing of the resident population in Switzerland," it said.
The statistics did not provide the same break-down for Switzerland's 1.2 million children under the age of 15, due to incomplete data.
FSO said around 90 percent of these children had been born in Switzerland, but it remained unclear how many of them were second generation immigrants.
The Federal Migration Office meanwhile said 23,765 people sought asylum in 2014, adding that a large chunk of them had sneaked in from Italy after crossing the Mediterranean.
It said Switzerland last year accounted for four percent of asylum requests in Europe. Switzerland is one of the countries in Europe that welcomes the most asylum seekers in proportion to its population.
Eritreans topped the list with 6,923 arriving seeking asylum in 2014 alone -- a 170-percent rise from the previous year, the FMO said.
A total of 34,561 Eritreans fled from the autocratic Horn of Africa country last year, escaping open-ended conscription and the iron rule of President Issaias Afeworki, according to the UN refugee agency.
The Swiss migration office said the rise in asylum requests was linked to increasing illegal entry into Europe through Italy via often perilous Mediterranean crossings, which peaked in the summer.
The second largest group of asylum seekers was from war-ravaged Syria, with 3,819 requests -- a 101-percent rise.
According to data released by the UN's refugee agency in July, just four percent of the more than three million Syrians who have fled the near four-year civil war there were given refugee status in Europe.
Italy has registered 170,000 migrant arrivals in 2014, a four-fold rise on the previous year, according to the International Organization of Migration.