11 January 2012
France cracks down on immigration – record numbers deported
France's interior minister Claude Gueant has revealed that the country deported a record 33,000 illegal immigrants in 2011 and that he wants to see this number, already a 17.5% rise from 2010, reach 35,000 in 2012.
French immigration policy has always attracted much attention and Mr Gueant is seen as a hardliner on immigration matters. "The foreigners that we welcome here must integrate themselves. It is up to them to adapt to us, not the other way round" he said.
France famously banned Islamic face veils in 2010 on the grounds of supporting women's freedoms, although critics claimed the law stigmatised Muslim communities. "We reject...cloistered lives lived along ethnic and religious grounds, those that live by their own laws" Mr Gueant added.
Mr Gueant, who is considered to be a close ally of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also vowed to reduce legal migration, stating "what is at stake is the cohesion and the equilibrium of our society and our ability to maintain our tradition of welcoming [migrants]".
With the French election fast approaching, some analysts have claimed this announcement is simply a move for incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy to secure precious support from anti-immigration voters.
The French president remains unpopular due to his conservative leanings and, although the challenge he is facing from left wing socialist candidate François Hollande will certainly be tough, Sarkozy also has plenty of critics on the right of the political spectrum.
While critics may try to undermine the French government's announcements of these figures, the statistics would appear to support Mr Gueant's claims. Although citizens of the EU do not require a French visa to enter France, non-EU citizens do and less than 200,000 were granted in 2011, a 3.6% reduction from the year before.
The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that offers visa advice and services.