France is adopting a tougher immigration policy by introducing a quota system for immigrants with professional skills and accelerating the expulsion of illegal entrants.
The move, announced by the government yesterday, is partly in response to the voters’ “revolt” in the referendum of May 29 in which they rejected the European Union’s constitutional treaty. Illegal immigration and unemployment were two of the main causes of voter discontent, fanned by far-right political parties.
“There are no quotas by ethnic origin or nationality. That is not in the spirit of our country. We are faithful to a humanist tradition,” he said. “France has the right and the duty to control its immigration policy with criteria adapted to its needs and its principles,” a government statement said.
Nicolas Sarkozy, interior minister, said the government wanted to fix an annual quota for immigrants with different categories of professional qualifications. The categories would be approved by parliament each year. The policy would operate in a similar way to the Canadian system, he said, in which immigrants were assessed according to their education, language skills, age, work experience, and capacity to adapt.
Mr Sarkozy said he also wanted to increase the expulsion rate for clandestine immigrants by 50 per cent from 15,000 a year to 22,500. “France can only remain generous if those who are here in violation of our rights and our laws are returned home,” he said.
It is estimated that there may be up to 400,000 illegal immigrants in France.