Controversial French minister wants to reduce legal migrants
President Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial Interior Minister Claude Gueant wants to reduce the number of legal immigrants entering France, including those coming to work legally or join their families.
Asked by Le Figaro weekly magazine whether he was going to do something to reduce legal migration, Gueant, who has previously stoked controversy with statements on Islam and immigration, said "of course."
"I've asked for the number of people admitted as labour immigrants (around 20,000 per year) to be reduced," he said in the interview to be published on Friday.
"And we will continue to reduce the number of foreigners coming to France to join their families," or around 15,000 people a year, he said, adding that he had requested a study of other European countries' practices vis-a-vis international law.
The UMP party of Sarkozy and Gueant has veered increasingly to the political right ahead of next year's presidential election.
Critics accuse it of trying to win over voters who would otherwise vote for the anti-immigration far-right National Front party.
"In terms of asylum (around 10,000 people a year), our country is more generous, despite restrictions, than Germany or the United Kingdom, even though we apply the same international conventions," Gueant said.
"If it emerges that there are anomalies in our practices, changes will be made," he said.
With regard to illegal immigration, Gueant said that "before 2001, France only sent between 8,000 and 9,000 people back to their countries (while) today it's around 30,000."
He said the aim was to expel 28,000 people in 2011 but "Quite frankly, I hope that we can expel more."
© 2011 AFP