New national identity minister promises pragmatism

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - The head of France's controversial new Ministry for Immigration and National Identity said Monday he would be tough on illegal immigration but that he would also be pragmatic because the country needed more workers.

PARIS, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - The head of France's controversial new Ministry for Immigration and National Identity said Monday he would be tough on illegal immigration but that he would also be pragmatic because the country needed more workers.

Despite high unemployment, sectors such as construction and the hotel and restaurant business were unable to find enough staff, Brice Hortefeux told Europe 1 radio.

He said he would soon meet with representatives of these industries to discuss their employment needs, which, he said, showed that "my approach is lacking any dogmatism, any preconceived ideas."

Hortefeux's ministry was a campaign pledge of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who took power last week.

Sarkozy warned of a social "explosion" if immigration was not properly managed and said that France must have "chosen" immigration rather than immigration "imposed" on the country.

But the ministry has been slammed by critics on the left, who accused him of courting the extreme right by combining national identity and immigration. 

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has spent a lengthy political  career calling for a complete stop to immigration, said during the presidential election campaign that Sarkozy was merely aping his policies.

Hortefeux said Monday he regretted that of the 187,000 work papers issued in the last year for which figures are available, 92,000 were issued for family reasons against 11,000 for immigrants "for whom it is certain that they are coming to carry out a professional activity."

He said there would be no mass legalisation of illegals, as was done in neighbouring Spain, but that undocumented workers' appeals for legalisation would be carried out on a case-by-case basis.

He predicted there would be about 25,000 expulsions of illegals from France this year, which is roughly the number deported last year. He estimated the number of illegals in France at between 200,000 and 400,000.

Rioting across France in late 2005 in the predominantly immigrant suburbs -- the worst civil unrest here in nearly half a century -- highlighted France's strained integration policies.

French unemployment -- currently at 8.3 percent -- is among the highest in Europe, but most economists agree that the country needs a steady flow of immigrants to fill the jobs the French do not want to do and to balance the effects of an ageing population.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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