‘We need to help refugees nearer to their homes’: Migrant-refusing Swiss village to RT

RT caught up with the mayor of the ultra-rich Swiss municipality that would rather pay a large fine than host 10 refugees. Although he previously talked of “barbed wire,” the reasons for not hosting refugees now seem to be humanitarian in nature.

Just as some 70 percent of Swiss backed a proposal to speed up the country’s asylum procedures, and as Switzerland is asked to play an increasing role in solving the crisis, one of its villages is running in the other direction.

The municipality of Oberwil-Lieli would rather pay a fine of $300,000 per year to prevent any Syrians from setting foot in the quaint little community. And they can afford to – with a staggering 300 millionaires among its 2,000 residents.

The slim majority emerged victorious after holding a referendum not to take any refugees in, with a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent against.

When RT visited Oberwil, no one was willing to discuss the issue flat out, apparently because of its highly contentious nature. But Mayor Andreas Glarner appeared much more willing.

Glarner was caught in early May saying that Switzerland should build a barbed wire fence to cope with the migrant influx affecting Europe.

“Switzerland must close all of its green borders with barbed wire,” Glarner was quoted as saying by national daily the Tages Anzeiger.

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) opposes a reform of Swiss asylum legislation championed by Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, a member of the Socialist Party. The reform, which was adopted last year by the parliament, would greatly speed up the country's ability to process asylum requests.

Asked by RT why shelling out is easier than providing shelter, Glarner offered more humanitarian reasons this time around.

“It’s not that we’re too rich [for refugees], I think that the refugee policy in this country is wrong,” he said. “We should be helping people closer to their homes – not getting them to risk their lives and pay traffickers to come thousands of kilometers away.”

Such explanations did not fly with people online, who blasted the village for “paying to be free of responsibility towards fellow human beings in need – that’s not really going to work,” as one tweet read.

Glarner isn’t a big fan of the Swiss fine system either, which has existed in Switzerland for some time. “I think it’s crazy, personally, but it’s the law. I think it gives the impression that we are the super-rich, wanting to buy these refugees off,” he said.

“Our people aren’t racist. We want to help those in need,” he added.

According to Glarner, everyone understands the refugee predicament equally, but there are different ways of doing so.

“Look, everyone was outraged when Hungary closed its borders to refugees. Now everyone is doing it. We have to address our refugee policy first,” he says. Glarner asks if those who crossed five safe countries in order to get to Switzerland are real refugees, or simply there for the good standard of living.

“We need to help these people nearer to where they are from. The way things are going, when there is peace, there will be no young people left to rebuild their nations, because they’re all here.”