Senegal, France agree to 'managed migration'

25th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

DAKAR, Sept 23, 2006 (AFP) - Senegal and France on Saturday signed an agreement designed to make it easier for Senegalese students and entrepreneurs to enter France while requiring illegal immigrants to be repatriated.

DAKAR, Sept 23, 2006 (AFP) - Senegal and France on Saturday signed an agreement designed to make it easier for Senegalese students and entrepreneurs to enter France while requiring illegal immigrants to be repatriated.

The deal was signed in Dakar by Senegalese Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, who described the accord as "historic and without precedent".

"Neither Europe nor France can receive all those who dream of Eldorado," the French minister declared. "A general opening of borders would in little time result in a destabilisation of European societies and the coming to power of xenophobic parties. No one wants that."

Sarkozy — who has championed a tough line towards France's estimated 200,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants — is the right-wing's frontrunner for France's 2007 presidential election.

Immigration is shaping up as a major issue in the election, helping anti-immigration far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen to a strong position in early opinion polls.

In July the French parliament approved a divisive new immigration law, proposed by Sarkozy, which offers easier access to qualified foreign workers but increases the restrictions on others.

His policy of managed migration has been criticised as a cynical attempt to allow Paris to cherry-pick those immigrants deemed to contribute to the French economy, resulting in a 'brain drain' from Africa, while rejecting the rest.

The government has vowed to speed up deportations of clandestine immigrants and has scrapped the automatic right to residency papers for migrants who have been in the country for 10 years.

The rate of expulsions has been steadily rising, from 15,000 in 2004 to 20,000 last year. Sarkozy has set a national target of 25,000 for this year.

But efforts to deport illegal immigrant families with school-age children have sparked anger and a widespread grassroots campaign to block their removal.

The French-Senegalese agreement signed on Saturday also covers an initial EUR 2.5 million euros in financial aid for micro-projects, notably in agriculture.

"Africa's unhappiness today will be tomorrow's disaster for Europe. We have to help Africa to develop itself," Sarkozy declared.

The Senegalese interior minister said the new accord put into place measures "better adapted to the new circumstances" and marked a new era in relations between Senegal and its former colonial master.

Immigration is also becoming a high-profile topic on a European level, with Spain this week leading a new push for European help to deal with the massive wave of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands, Italy and Malta.

Madrid wants the issue to top the agenda at the EU's summit next month. Since the beginning of the year, over 25,000 illegal African immigrants have arrived in the Canary Islands while Spain has repatriated 13,000 back to sub-Saharan Africa.

Sarkozy's presence in Senegal came two days ahead of a visit to the west African nation by Ségolène Royal, the socialist seen as Sarkozy's likely main rival in next year's race for the Elysee Palace.

The visit of Royal, who was born in Dakar, will focus on joint development projects and the environment.

The Socialist Party leader François Hollande on Saturday slammed Sarkozy's visit to Senegal as a political manoeuvring ahead of next May's presidential election.

"Is he really there as interior minister or as a candidate? The answer is clear — he is there as a candidate. He even moved his trip forward to beat a Socialist representative there, namely Ségolène Royal," Hollande declared at a party meeting in the southern city of Nice.

"What kind of a republic are we in, where state funds, official visits and trips abroad are used to spread propaganda?" he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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