France tightens immigration, language requirements

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Sep 21 12:59:53 UTC 2007

   France Tightens Immigration Requirements By Lisa Bryant
*20 September 2007*

The French National Assembly has adopted legislation tightening immigration
requirements. The senate has not yet examined the bill, which includes a
controversial provision for voluntary DNA testing. But, from Paris, Lisa
Bryant reports the measure reflects a choosier France - and Europe - when it
comes to immigration policy.* *

  [image: An Act Up militant, foreground, dragged away by policemen after a
protest in front of the Immigration Ministry in Paris, 19 Sep 2007<br />] An
Act Up militant, foreground, dragged away by policemen after a protest in
front of the Immigration Ministry in Paris, 19 Sep 2007France is hardly a
fortress, but it is getting harder to enter the country as a legal immigrant
- and easier for illegal aliens to be deported. The bill adopted by the
National Assembly would require French language tests for visa candidates
and parents seeking to join family members to sign immigration contracts. It
would also authorize voluntary genetic tests to prove family ties. If passed
by both houses, it would be the third French law in five years tightening
immigration policy.

The legislation - particularly the controversial DNA provision - has sparked
widespread opposition. Leftist politicians, human rights groups, the Vatican
and even French police and government ministers have voiced concerns.
Tuesday, several hundred people gathered in front of the National Assembly
in Paris, to protest the bill being debated by lawmakers. They included
31-year-old Majid Messoudene, a Socialist party official from the Seine
Saint-Denis region outside Paris. Messoudene's parents immigrated to France
from Algeria, in the 1960s.

Messoudene said France has a tradition of immigration. He calls it part of
the country's wealth. He says, whether the government likes it or not,
France will remain a country of immigration. Nearby, Moussa Bakhaga, from
Mali, said he believes Africans like himself - from countries once colonized
by France - should be allowed to come here and work. Bakhaga, who is jobless
and has been living in France for the past seven years, says he no longer
recognized the country. He says the new immigration policy is extremist.

  [image: Nicolas Sarkozy] Nicolas Sarkozy The new legislation makes good
campaign promises by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian
immigrant. The French president wants what he calls a "chosen immigration"
policy, targeting skilled workers who can fill critical labor gaps. Mr.
Sarkozy cracked down on immigration as the country's interior minister. This
year, he has also vowed to enforce quotas to deport illegal aliens. The
target is set for 25,000, compared to 15,000 in 2004. Mr. Sarkozy's
immigration minister recently chastised French officials who failed to meet
their quotas.

The government's tough stance has outraged immigration rights activists like
Mouloud Aounit, head of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship
Between Peoples, a Paris-based anti-discrimination group. Aounit calls
France's center-right government "xenophobic."

Although Aounit supports a national - and a even Europe-wide - debate on
immigration, he says immigrants' rights should be respected. He says France
cannot have immigration legislation that threatens fundamental liberties.

But a poll published in the *Le Figaro* newspaper, this week, found the
majority of French people support immigration quotas. Most also favor French
language requirements for would-be immigrants and oppose blanket
regularization of illegal aliens.

France is not alone in adopting a choosier approach to immigration.

"We're beginning to have a more sophisticated debate about: okay we accept
immigration as a reality and will be a reality going forward," says Hugo
Brady, a research fellow at the Center for European Reform, in London. "Now,
member states and the European commission are discussing - basically the big
issue is how do you get the right kind of immigrant? That is the big
issue." .

According to European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, Europe
only draws about five percent of the skilled foreign labor force - compared
to the 55 percent who head for the United States.

Frattini has vowed to introduce so-called "blue cards" next month --
Europe's answer to American-style "green cards" for qualified foreign
workers. The document would allow holders to stay in a European country for
a two-year period. They may eventually be qualified for a longer-term
residency and to work in other EU countries.

But immigration specialists, like Catherine de Wenden, say that, as more and
more Europeans head toward retirement, the region will need all kinds of
immigrants to fill labor shortages - including unskilled ones. Ms. de Wenden
is an analyst at the National Center for Scientific Research, in Paris.

Moreover, Wenden says, tougher immigration legislation is not always
effective. She says people who leave their country have lost hope to stay
and that hey want things to change. She says the desire to go to Europe is
very strong.
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