Swiss anti-immigration party remains most popular – poll

Reuters / Denis Balibouse
The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) continues to receive the highest levels of support in Switzerland, according to the latest survey released ahead of autumn elections. The party is popular for its immigration restriction proposals.

The SVP is the most widely-backed political force in Switzerland, with the support of over 26 percent of the voters, a survey conducted by the gfs.bern research institute has shown.

According to the latest polling figures released on Wednesday, the support for the party with nationalist views is still well ahead of other political groups. The second most popular party, according to the poll, is the Swiss Socialist Party with 19.3 percent of supporters; the center-right Liberals now garner just over 17 percent.

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Another survey conducted by gfs.bern has shown that the issue of immigration and asylum seekers is at the forefront of Swiss voters’ consciousness, The Local reported. Thirty four percent of the population said the issue was their primary concern, figures released by state broadcaster SSR on Wednesday showed. Relations with the EU perplex 10 percent, while five percent have ranked environment issues as key.

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The SVP has been standing firm on imposing strict immigration quotas in the country, where voters are to elect a new parliament in October.

"We identified this [immigration] problem before the others and the citizens know it," the SVP vice-president Claude-Alain Voiblet told the Tribune de Genève newspaper, as quoted by the Local.

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In a 2014 nationwide referendum, Switzerland voted to cap the number of immigrants entering the country in an initiative led by the SVP. The voters narrowly backed the party's proposal to impose strict immigration quotas, despite opposition from the government and several of the country's top industries, including banks and drugmakers.

The SVP also wants to make it easier to deport immigrants from the country if they don't integrate, as well as deny foreigners government services and benefits.

Last year, EU denounced the Swiss proposal for limits on the number of foreign workers allowed into Switzerland for not being in line with an EU pact that guarantees the free movement of labor. Bern has since been struggling to negotiate a deal with EU. In a bid to break a deadlock over immigration curbs, a chief negotiator to discuss the issue with EU will be appointed by Switzerland, Reuters reported this week.

Reuters / Loris Savino

Earlier this week, a Swiss official has threatened to close its border with Italy to migrants.

"If the influx of refugees from Italy continues, we will have to temporarily close the border. It's the only way for Switzerland to put pressure on other countries that do not respect their obligations," head of the cantonal government of Ticino Norman Gobbi told Swiss national newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, as cited by Newsweek. The official said that the number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing into Switzerland from Italy has doubled from last year.

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According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the number of asylum applications received in 2014 in EU has risen by 25 percent compared to the same period in 2013. This year’s estimates by refugee agencies in Europe suggest that more than 100,000 people have made it to the continent through various routes since the beginning of the year. Based on the 1985 Schengen Treaty, Europe’s Schengen Area means the region is treated as a single borderless state and people can travel around its countries passport-free.

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With the worsening migrant crisis, right-wing movements have been successful in the elections in European Parliament, as well as emerging in regional elections. Last week, right-wing parties from France, Italy and the Netherlands claimed they would create a new anti-EU group in the European Parliament. Called “Europe of Nations and Freedom,” the new parliamentary group will be formed on an anti-immigration and anti-euro platform.