Friday, May 19, 2006

Selling Immigration Bill to Africans ... or not!

As we mentioned yesterday on this blog, the French parliament passed a new immigration law (which has yet to be voted by the Senate next month). The man behind the bill is Nicolas Sarkozy (The French Interior Minister AND presidential-candidate) of course. Here are the basics of the bill:

  • Only the qualified get "skills and talents" residency permit
  • Foreigners only allowed in to work, not live off benefits
  • Foreign spouses to wait longer for residence cards
  • Migrants must agree to learn French
  • Migrants must sign 'contract' respecting French way of life
  • Scraps law on workers getting citizenship after 10 years.
Today and yesterday Sarkozy was in Africa trying to sell the new law to the African leaders there. As can be expected, he faced protests both in Mali and Benin (with chants of "racist, racist" from protesters!).
"Our policy is simple: More rights for Malians whose situation is in order and fewer Malians in an illegal situation. No nation with a state of law can fault us for that policy," he said after meeting Malian Prime Minister Ousmane Issoufi Maiga. (here)

Most critics have said that selective immigration deprives Africa of sorely needed talent, creaming off the best-educated to work in France and elsewhere. That may be true, but it is not something that would get to most French voters, I'd think. It takes some guts to go to Africa to sell an anti-immigration bill, you might think (Imagine Bush go to Mexico right now). But the real target of his trip is not the Africans, it is the French voters who support tougher restrictions on immigration.


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