Immigration bill up for debate in parliament

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 2, 2006 (AFP) - The French parliament was Tuesday to start debating a bill that would make it tougher for immigrants to bring their families into the country while giving priority to qualified foreigners.

PARIS, May 2, 2006 (AFP) - The French parliament was Tuesday to start debating a bill that would make it tougher for immigrants to bring their families into the country while giving priority to qualified foreigners.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who sees immigration as one of the main themes in the race for the presidential election he wants to contest next year, has championed the draft law.

"If some people don't like France, then they shouldn't be shy about leaving," he said last week, earning sharp criticism from the left-wing opposition, the Catholic Church and rights groups.

The message that France is becoming less hospitable is especially contentious because of racial overtones left over from last November's urban riots.

Many of those who took part in the violence came from immigrant families who arrived from France's many poor former colonies and territories in north and west Africa.

Sarkozy has argued that France is suffering by allowing in foreigners from outside the European Union with few selection criteria.

His bill would change that by making it easier for those who could immediately contribute to the country's economy while restricting access to other, less-qualified hopefuls.

Family reunion rules currently in force would be scrapped and replaced with a requirement that the applicant show earnings of at least the minimum monthly wage of EUR 1,200 euros and residence in France of at least 18 months before being allowed to bring in close relatives.

A provision allowing foreigners to obtain long-term residency status after 10 years would also be thrown out.

Foreigners also would be compelled to learn French and respect gender equality.

The proposed changes were likely to be adopted because of the domination of the ruling UMP party — which Sarkozy heads — in parliament.

Several other European countries, notably Britain, The Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Italy, already have similar measures.

French authorities say more than seven percent of the country's population of 63 million are immigrants, including between 200,000 and 400,000 who entered or are staying illegally.

Critics warn the reform could have a nefarious effect not only on France's historical attachment to human rights — with Church leaders accusing the government of wanting to cream off the best candidates and reject the others — but also for the countries of origin, which would suffer a 'brain drain'.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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