French Plan to Screen DNA of Visa-Seekers Draws Anger

Molly Moore, Washington Post, September 21, 2007

The French National Assembly on Thursday approved a controversial proposal authorizing the use of DNA testing to determine whether foreigners applying for visas are actually related to family members they seek to join in France.

The plan, part of President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s efforts to make it tougher for foreigners from Middle Eastern and African countries to immigrate to France, prompted outrage from human rights groups, opposition politicians and some members of the president’s cabinet.

The proposal, which also includes requirements that candidates for immigration be proficient in French and know the “values of the Republic,” is part of a Europe-wide effort to curtail immigration in the face of growing public concern over the influx of foreigners and angst over the loss of traditional national identities.

“The parliamentary majority decided to use the current fear of globalization and nationalist ideas to draw a parallel between immigrants and cheaters,” Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, one of the country’s leading anti-discrimination groups, said of the vote in the lower house. “They definitely crossed a moral line.”

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The legislation also includes a controversial clause that would allow France to collect census data on the racial and ethnic backgrounds of residents.

France has long maintained that its laws of equality prohibit it from collecting information on an individual’s race or ethnicity, but some organizations representing minorities complain that the lack of data serves as a cover for widespread discrimination.

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