By Charlotte Parker
“Fermer Frambois” does not mean, as I thought at first glance, “Raspberry Farm” (that would be Ferme de framboises…whoops), but “Close Frambois.” And Frambois is a detention center, located in Vernier near the Geneva airport, for asylum seekers to Switzerland who have been ordered deported. I saw this sticker all over Geneva yesterday, advertising a march of protest and solidarity for the undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers closed in Frambois. “Let’s reverse the machine of deportation,” it reads, “through a march from the Airport of Geneva to the administrative detention center of Frambois! Papers for everyone, or no papers at all.”
I couldn’t miss work, but I would have been curious to attend the march for two reasons. One, I had heard that Switzerland, despite its neutral reputation, has seen a rise in serious xenophobia over the past five years. A 2009 election poster for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (UDC) showed three white sheep kicking a black sheep across the border. It sparked controversy and a court case, but only a year ago, in 2011, the UDC received 26.6% of the popular vote and 54 seats in the federal legislature. The detention of asylum-seekers seemed like a topical issue to protest.
Mostly, though, I wanted to see a protest. The only expression of civic upset I’ve seen in Geneva since I’ve arrived is 3 bedraggled hippies standing outside the World Health Organization holding signs against “the next Chernobyl.” According to the blog of the group that organized the march, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Free Association recently put Geneva on the list of places that limit the right to protest. While other rhetoric on the blog needs to be taken with the understanding of its far-left affilliation, I believe that little factoid. According to the Tribune de Geneve, a major daily paper, police stopped the 150-person march before it had reached Frambois—with tear gas.
- Charlotte Parker ’13 is in Berkeley College. She is an intern for the summer at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. Contact her at email@example.com.