France deports more foreigners
France deported close to 30,000 illegal immigrants in 2008.PARIS - France deported close to 30,000 illegal immigrants in 2008, surpassing the annual expulsions target set by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, a police official said Monday.
A total of 29,799 foreigners were forced to leave France in 2008, up from 23,200 the previous year, said the official.
Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, who was due to hold a news conference on Tuesday, had set a target of 26,000 deportations for last year. For 2007, the goal was 25,000.
Sarkozy campaigned for the presidency in 2007 on a platform that called for tougher immigration laws and a new policy of "chosen immigration" favouring skilled foreigners who can boost the economy.
Rights groups have severely criticised the deportations and some local politicians have accused the government of exerting strong pressure on police to track down and expel foreigners in order to meet the target.
During its six-month stint at the helm of the European Union, France spearheaded negotiations on a new immigration pact, adopted in October and which outlines measures for fighting illegal immigration.