French minister widens crime crackdown on foreigners

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France's interior minister proposed Sunday to strip French nationality from foreign-born residents for human trafficking and female genital mutilation, widening controversial proposals to fight crime.

Brice Hortefeux's comments published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper added to a list of offences cited by President Nicolas Sarkozy in the latest measures of his so-called "war on crime" targeting foreign minorities.

The leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, on Sunday accused Hortefeux and Sarkozy of an approach "that harms France and its values by selective laws that are as iniquitous as they are unconstitutional."

Hortefeux, who had already threatened to strip a Muslim man of his French nationality for polygamy, said "loss of nationality must be allowed... also in cases of female circumcision, human-trafficking or acts of serious deliquency."

Struggling in the opinion polls after his government was implicated in a financial scandal and following recent violent unrest in immigrant districts, Sarkozy on Friday announced a headline-grabbing package of security measures.

He vowed to strip foreign-born individuals of their French nationality if they attack police or public officials and to review the public services provided to undocumented immigrants, like healthcare and schooling.

On Wednesday Hortefeux also threatened to expel foreign Roma minorities who commit crimes and to tear down hundreds of illegal Roma camps.

Aubry said in a statement: "We will not let foreigners be stigmatised, nor French people of immigrant descent, nor travellers, as the president of the republic and his majority have shamefully done."

GAMS, French a group campaigning against female genital mutilation, said Hortefeux's proposal was symbolically important but that French nationals were rarely among those charged for it.

"I am not sure that that represents a social reality," said Isabelle Gillette-Faye, president of GAMS, adding that it was more urgent to crack down on forced marriages and polygamy.

© 2010 AFP

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