French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called for a special ministry of immigration to be set up as he pledged to pursue a tough line on illegal arrivals.
Sarkozy, the likely right-wing candidate in next year’s presidential election, has made a name for himself as a law-and-order hardliner and underlined his approach in a review of immigration policy yesterday.
He said he envisaged the proposed new minister being charged with ensuring the policy was kept up and reinforced while also coordinating all aspects of the dossier.
“The Minister of Immigration will be responsible for maintaining a resolute policy of firmness in the struggle against illegal immigration,” he said.
Sarkozy, whose tough talk is adored and hated in equal measure by French voters, is running neck and neck with Socialist candidate Segolene Royal in opinion polls ahead of next April’s ballot.
His hard line on immigration is also seen as an attempt to win over voters who might otherwise pick a far right candidate such as National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Sarkozy’s comments reflect rising concern in Europe over a sharp rise in illegal immigration from poor countries in Africa, balanced by calls for a more ordered immigration policy.
He also called for a European pact on immigration and said he hoped one day to see an international treaty.