Wednesday, January 11, 2012

France expels record number of illegal immigrants

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has made a play for the anti-immigrant voters who may determine whether he wins a second term, saying today that France had booted out more illegal migrants in the past year than ever before.

Sarkozy's interior minister added that he wants thousands more expelled this year, along with fewer foreigners legally living in France. Anyone who wants to stay, he added, must shed the traditions that contradict French values.

The conservative president is unpopular and facing a tough challenge from the left and the resurgent far right in presidential elections to be held in April and May in an increasingly diverse France. Sarkozy hasn't formally declared his candidacy but is widely expected to run.

Interior minister Claude Gueant lauded the government's record, saying French authorities expelled 32,912 illegal immigrants in 2011, up 17.5 per cent from 2010.

"This result is 5,000 higher than the initial objective decided upon at the start of the year. It is the highest result ever achieved," he said. The government wants the figure to rise to 35,000 this year, he added.

Echoing one of Sarkozy's favoured themes, Gueant said immigrants must better integrate.

"We reject ... cloistered lives lived along ethnic and religious grounds, those that live by their own laws," Gueant told reporters. "The foreigners that we welcome here must integrate themselves. It is up to them to adapt to us, not the other way around."

The comment was in part a reference to France's ban on Islamic face veils, a 2010 law that supporters said defended women's freedoms, but critics said stigmatised millions of moderate Muslims.

France has western Europe's largest Muslim population, many with family ties to former French colonies in North Africa.

The majority of immigrants come to France legally, though the number of new arrivals is shrinking and Gueant wants to reduce it further. The number of residency permits issued last year shrank 3.6 per cent to 182,595, he said.

"We want to fight against illegal immigration and control the flow of normal immigration to France. What is at stake is the cohesion and the equilibrium of our society and our ability to maintain our tradition of welcoming them," Gueant said.

Sarkozy has championed strict policies on crime and illegal immigration -- ground where he is politically threatened by far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.


Must not speak the truth about "boat people"

"Boat people" are illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans and other poorly educated Muslims, who arrive in Australian waters by boat. They are immediatey imprisoned on arrival while their claims to be asylum seekers are assessed

SERCO, the company that runs immigration detention, has stood down an officer who posted Facebook comments saying Muslim children in detention did not deserve Christmas presents and male detainees taught their children it was acceptable to beat wives.

The Serco officer, who has direct contact with asylum seekers held at the Darwin Airport Lodge, posted the Facebook comments on Monday, after an incident in which Christmas presents for 200 children were not handed out by officers until 12 days after Christmas.

"A member of Serco Immigration Services staff has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation," a spokesman for the company said yesterday.

In the first Facebook comment, the officer wrote: "Sad for all the Christian kids! Not sure why Islamist (sic?) would want Christmas present."

A short time later he posted: "I don't know of any country in the world that you can enter illegally an be granted freedom immediately! No one abuses them, perhaps u forget the saying it takes two to tango. Maybe you need to come and face these men who teach their children that women have no rights. I guess you must think there is nothing wrong with domestic violence."

Victoria Martin-Iverson, a West Australian refugee advocate, saw the comments posted on Serco Watch, a Facebook page that monitors news about the multinational company that runs prisons in Britain as well as Australia's immigration detention network. The officer had boldly included his real name, which linked back to his own Facebook page that stated he was a Serco officer in Darwin.

"I thought they were pretty outrageous comments," Ms Martin-Iverson said. "What he essentially said is they are wife beaters. It is horrific and he is working directly with asylum seekers." She contacted the immigration department and the department's compliance division responded.

An immigration department spokeswoman said: "The department is aware of the incident. The detention services provider is investigating the matter as they are required to do under the terms of their contract."


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