Foreign residents in Switzerland comprised about 20% of the total population in 1998. Nearly a third of all resident foreigners were of Italian nationality; the former Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey were the next-leading countries of origin. In April 1987, Swiss voters approved a government plan to tighten rules on immigration and political asylum.
From the beginning of the civil war in Bosnia, Switzerland took in some 27,000 Bosnian refugees by 1997, granting most only temporary protection. In 1997, 8,000 singles and couples without children returned to Bosnia; another 2,800 returned voluntarily. Nonetheless, as a result of the drastic increase in the number of asylum-seekers, Switzerland suspended its resettlement policy in mid-1998.
As a result of the Kosovo conflict, Switzerland again faced a major increase in asylum-seekers in 1999, totaling almost 10,000 in the month of June alone. The Swiss government offered temporary protection to about 65,000 Kosovars living in the country. However, as part of its repatriation program, the government announced it would provide generous financial assistance to those Kosovars who decided to return to their homeland before 31 May 2000. The net migration rate in 1999 was 0.49 migrants per 1,000 population.