Tuesday, July 18, 2006

France to crackdown on illegal immigrants


French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, accused of planning a mass expulsion of illegal immigrants with children in school, promised in an interview to be published today to give the "exact number" of those expelled and those given papers to stay.

Critics of Sarkozy's get-tough immigration policy have raised the spectre of a "hunt for children" who attend school in France but are here illegally. They claim that a mass expulsion is in the works.

"We will give papers to all those who arrived here young and don't have links to their countries of origin," Sarkozy told the daily Le Parisien.

He said that those who arrived after the age of 15, after the start of the school year or who are trying to profit from the current situation will be returned home. In addition, anyone who has applied for political asylum in another country will be returned to that country, he said.

Sarkozy's July 24 numbers were not likely to be complete. He issued orders in June for families who consider that they have strong ties to France to apply to stay. They have until August 13 to do so.

All children, illegal or not, have a right to attend school in France. However, Sarkozy's critics say school children should not be pulled from their studies and expelled.

The issue has grown so divisive that Sarkozy was obliged to appoint a mediator, high-profile attorney Arno Klarsfeld.

Yesterday, a group lobbying on behalf of families who risk expulsion, the Education Without Borders Network, filed a complaint with the government-run High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and for Equality, HALDE, saying that confusion reins in the administration, deluged by families trying to stay, and that applicants were not receiving equal treatment.

Just weeks ago, the French parliament adopted a law that makes it harder for foreigners to remain in France or bring their families here, but easier for those with special talents.

France's holiday is over: Sarkozy


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