France plans illegal immigration clampdown

11th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - France on Wednesday announced new measures to clamp down on illegal immigration, including rules to stop arranged marriages, the rapid extension of "biometric" visas and an increase in the number of expulsions.

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - France on Wednesday announced new measures to clamp down on illegal immigration, including rules to stop arranged marriages, the rapid extension of "biometric" visas and an increase in the number of expulsions.  

"When it comes to illegal immigration, the rule has to be firmness," said Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.  

The number of illegal immigrants currently in France is between 200,000 and 400,000, he said. Many of these are people who entered the country lawfully but have overstayed their visas.  

A 20 percent increase in the level of lawful immigration over the last seven years was also largely due to an explosion in the number of marriages between French nationals and foreigners - thousands of which are fixed every year, Villepin told the newspaper.  

"We are therefore going to change our civil code so that marriages contracted abroad are not automatically recognised here," he said. Foreign consulates will be required to check that marriages conform to the requirements of French law.  

Among other measures included in the plan to be presented to the cabinet Thursday are the creation of an interministerial committee to coordinate controls; a new immigration police force; and a list of countries deemed 'safe' for asylum-seekers to be returned home.  

To enable French authorities to detect immigrants who outstay their time, "biometric" visas with fingerprint or other personal information will be the norm in consulates around the world within three years.  

A national register of so-called reception certificates - which are issued by town halls and attest that a would-be immigrant has a home to welcome him - will be created to prevent fraud and duplication.  

Villepin said that the number of people deported for failing to meet entry requirements went up from 11,000 in 2003 to 16,000 last year. "My aim is to reach 20,000 this year," he said.  

In addition some 30,000 people are stopped at entry-points every year.  

The new European constitution - to be put to a referendum in France on May 29 - will make it easier to control illegal immigration because issues of asylum and immigration will be decided by majority vote rather than require unanimity among all 25 European Union member states, Villepin said.   

The minister also rejected suggestions of an amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country.  

"It is out of the question. Previous mass amnesties in 1981 and 1997 were total failures. Each time it created new pressure and new arrivals," he said.  

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration National Front party, condemned the new measures as "demagogic gesticulation."  

Pointing out that the package contains no legislative changes, he said that "the French parliament can no longer vote through the tiniest law on this matter.... Immigration policy is now the sole competence of the European Union," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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