A significant wave of immigration from the former Yugoslavia to Switzerland occurred during the 1990s and 2000s. While moderate numbers of Yugoslav citizens had residence in Switzerland during the 1980s, the bulk of immigration took place as a consequence of the Yugoslav Wars and the later Kosovo War, as well as by means of family reunion of those who had immigrated during this period.
About half a million immigrants from the former Yugoslavia lived in Switzerland as of 2009, corresponding to roughly 6.5% of total Swiss population. About half of this number are ethnic Albanians (mostly Kosovo Albanians and to a lesser extent Albanians from North Macedonia), while the other half is of South Slavic origin.
Taken as a single group, people from former Yugoslavia are the largest immigrant group in Switzerland, followed by the Italians at about 294,000. From the ethnic perspective, Albanians form the second largest immigrant group.
Since the Swiss Federal Statistical Office keeps a record of the nationalities of foreign residents, their ethnicity is not recorded. In the case of former Yugoslavia, where ethnic conflict was the reason for the war and the breakup of the country, this had the consequence that there were several, sometimes mutually hostile, ethnic groups living in Switzerland, all registered under the same nationality.
In 1920, 1,235 citizens of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia had residence in Switzerland. This number dropped to below 700 during World War II. After the end of the war and the formation of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, the number grew slowly, to 1,169 in 1960. During the 1960s to 1970s, immigration began to pick up noticeably with the influx of migrant workers, with 24,971 Yugoslav citizens registered in 1970 and 60,916 in 1980. On the eve of the collapse of Yugoslavia, immigration increased steeply, with 172,777 Yugoslavs registered in Switzerland by 1990. Immigration accelerated still more during the Yugoslav Wars. In 1995, there were more than 330,000 foreigners from former Yugoslavia residing in Switzerland, partly still registered with Yugoslavian nationality, partly under the nationality of Yugoslavia's successor states.
Registration under the successor states of Yugoslavia began gradually after 1992, but the problem remained unresolved until the year 2000. In 1998, there were still 198,131 foreign residents registered as "Yugoslavian". This number fell to 5,507 by 2000 and to zero by 2001.
The same problem was repeated on a smaller scale with the breakaway of Montenegro from the state of Serbia and Montenegro, and Kosovo from Serbia in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The statistics for 2011 record an increase by 8,922 in the number of citizens of Kosovo, and at the same time a decrease by 10,386 in the number of citizens of Serbia. This does not reflect any real population movement, but the registrations as citizens of Kosovo by Albanians who were formerly registered as Serbian citizens.
As of 2009, nationals of successor states of Yugoslavia are registered as follows:
By 1995, there were 40,000 Macedonian citizens in Switzerland. This number has risen further to 61,000 by 2002. This increase does not necessarily reflect immigration, but rather re-registration of formerly Yugoslav citizens as Macedonian nationals. An estimated 50,000 emigrants from North Macedonia are Albanians from North Macedonia.
The number of foreign residents from former Yugoslavia naturalized as Swiss citizens in 2009 was at 14,780 (Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo: 8,879; Bosnia and Herzegovina: 2,408; North Macedonia: 1,831; Croatia: 1,599; Slovenia: 63). This corresponds to one third of the total number of naturalizations during this year.
In 2010, out of a total of 40,403 naturalizations, 13,440 were accounted for by citizens of successor states of Yugoslavia, again corresponding to one third of the total number (Serbia: 6,843, Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1,924; Kosovo 1,609; North Macedonia: 1,585; Croatia: 1,479).
In terms of ethnicity, these populations consist mostly of Albanians, Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats and ethnic Macedonians. The size of each group is unknown and only amenable to rough estimates. An indicator of ethnicity can be taken from data on languages spoken in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the latest data on this was collected in the 2000 census. At that time, there were 103,000 native speakers of Serbo-Croatian, 95,000 speakers of Albanian and 61,300 speakers of Macedonian.
Estimates on the actual ethnic composition of former Yugoslav immigrants in Switzerland are mostly left to ethnic cultural organizations. They cannot be expected to have better than single-digit accuracy, but nevertheless give an overview of the general situation; such estimates[clarification needed] amount to roughly 250,000 Albanians, 150,000 Serbs, 80,000 Croats and 10,000 Macedonians. The number of Slovenians in Switzerland is much smaller, well within the four-digit range.
Macedonians in Switzerland are organized through many associations and clubs. The first such association was formed in 1988, and by 1991 there were five Macedonian clubs, now all part of one single organization called Zdru?enie na Makedonskite Dru?tva (ZMD), which was formed in 1992. The main purpose of this organisation was to encourage and spread Macedonian ideals, culture, language, and tradition.
The image of the groups from former Yugoslavia in Swiss society is very poor. In a survey performed in Zurich in 2011, "Former Yugoslavs" were found to be the least popular immigrant group, followed by Turks, Arabs and Germans. The Albanians have been singled out for their particularly poor image. As the largest group, they tend to be the most visible, besides the factor of prejudice against Islam, and the perceived link between immigration and crime. In a 2010 statistic, young males of the former Serbia and Montenegro (which to a large extent corresponds to the Kosovo Albanians in Switzerland) were found to have a crime rate of 310% of the young males in Swiss population, while those from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia had crime rates of 230%–240% of the Swiss value.[better source needed] It has been pointed out that the crime rates cannot be the only reason for the group's poor image, as the crime rate of the Sri Lankans in Switzerland was still higher, at 470%, while that group has a much better reputation.
More recent Swiss celebrities of Former Yugoslav origin are found mostly in sports, especially football. Examples include:
Swiss singer Patrick Nuo is of mixed Albanian and Swiss descent. Nuo has created 3 albums (one with Warner Music Group).Edita Abdieski is a Swiss singer-songwriter of Albanian descent (born in Switzerland in 1984 to a North Macedonia Albanian father and a Montenegrin Albanian mother), known as the winner of the debut series of the German X Factor show.