• France's news in English
 

France has too many immigrants - Sarkozy

Published: 07 Mar 2012 09:36 GMT+01:00

President Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Tuesday that there are too many immigrants in France, as the country's presidential election campaign became caught up in issues of religion and identity.

Defending a re-election campaign promise to cut the number of new arrivals in half, Sarkozy bluntly declared that France's attempts to integrate foreign arrivals into its culture and society had become paralysed.

"Our system of integration is working more and more badly, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy has been accused of tacking to the right in the run up to the April 22 first round of the French presidential election in order to recruit voters tempted by anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen's platform.

But, in a television interview, he insisted that while immigration could remain "a boon" for France in many areas, it must be controlled more tightly through tougher residency qualifications for newcomers.

"Over the five-year term I think that to restart the process of integration in good conditions, we must divide by two the number of people we welcome, that's to say to pass from 180,000 per year to 100,000," he said.

Sarkozy also announced new plans to limit some welfare benefit payments currently available to immigrant workers to those who have enjoyed residency for ten years and have worked for five of those.

The hardening of his tone came after a week in which the issue of Muslim immigration and in particular Islamic and Jewish dietary practice has surged to the fore in the national debate, upsetting religious leaders.

Jews and Muslims came together Tuesday to complain they were being used as pawns in the election, after first Le Pen then Sarkozy and finally his prime minister Francois Fillon criticised the production of halal and kosher meat.

"France's problems are so major, as we are in a period of crisis, so how can the issue of kosher meat and halal meat be a major problem for France?" asked an exasperated Grand Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim.

For its part, the French Council of the Muslim Faith slammed what it said was the use of Muslims as "scapegoats" in the election campaign in which halal slaughter of animals has become a hot-button issue.

The unusually strong reactions from the communities came a day after Fillon urged Muslims and Jews to consider scrapping "outdated" slaughter rules.

Le Pen launched the halal debate last month when she claimed all meat from Paris region abattoirs was prepared using Islamic halal traditions and that non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled.

Like kosher slaughter, the halal method requires the abattoir to kill the beast by slitting its throat. Stunning the beast first – as is done in non-ritual abattoirs – to lessen its ordeal is not permitted.

It later emerged that Paris region abattoirs mostly supplied local Muslim butchers and that most meat sold in Paris came from outside the region.

But the issue stuck and on Saturday Sarkozy suggested meat should be labelled to tell consumers how the animal was slaughtered.

France is home to western Europe's largest Muslim minority, officially estimated at least four million, and its largest Jewish community, estimated at up to 700,000.

The country has for years been debating how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam, now its second religion, and Sarkozy and Le Pen have both made the matter a central issue in their campaigns.

Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate and frontrunner in opinion polls, said his rivals had now gone too far and called for "restraint".

France will vote in the first round of a presidential election on April 22, followed by a second-round run-off on May 6. All recent opinion polls forecast that Hollande will emerge victorious.

Today's headlines
French singer Soko haunted by 'dark visions'
Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

French singer Soko haunted by 'dark visions'

Soko wakes up every couple of hours each night. Recently it's because she has friends staying over, and she's a self-conscious sleeper. But for much longer Soko has been consumed by dark, vivid visions. READ  

France down and out as Wales keep hopes alive
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

France down and out as Wales keep hopes alive

France were left with their Six Nations challenge in tatters after Wales triumphed 20-13 at the Stade de France on Saturday. READ  

French industrialist alive despite death report
Martin Bouygues alive and well. Photo: Sia Kambou/AFP

French industrialist alive despite death report

News agency AFP was obliged on Saturday to issue an apology to French industrialist Martin Bouygues, chairman and CEO of the conglomerate Bouygues, for erroneously reporting his death. READ  

Eight jailed in €100m Paris jewel heist
Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Eight jailed in €100m Paris jewel heist

A French court has sentenced eight men to jail over a double heist at a Harry Winston jewellery shop in Paris in which they made off with gems and watches worth more than €100 million ($114 million). READ  

Hollande condemns Boris Nemtsov killing
Photo: Dmitry Sereryakov/AFP

Hollande condemns Boris Nemtsov killing

French President Francois Hollande on Saturday condemned the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, calling him a "defender of democracy". READ  

US WWII vets awarded top French honour
Photo: Diego Urdaneta/AFP

US WWII vets awarded top French honour

Five American World War II veterans received France's highest honor Friday during a moving ceremony aboard a French naval vessel moored in Florida. READ  

UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute
The commute is around 250 kilometres. Photo: Google Maps

UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute

A councillor from the UK has come under fire in the UK for her long distance commute - from France. Opponents have called for her resignation. READ  

French management style slated by foreigners
French management style has been blasted by foreigners, although they do appreciate the lunch breaks. Management photo: Shutterstock.

French management style slated by foreigners

A massive survey of foreigners working in France has revealed that the French management style is far from being an international role model - but the extended lunch breaks, at least, were a redeeming feature. We take a closer look at the findings. READ  

French set for U-turn on EU-US trade agreement
The EU-US free trade agreement is the cause of much angst in France. Photo: AFP

French set for U-turn on EU-US trade agreement

The proposed free trade zone between the EU and the US is at the centre of a political struggle in France, with the government looking set to make a U-turn over its stance towards one of the most controversial elements of the agreement. READ  

Louvre condemns Iraq jihadist statue-smashing
Islamic State militants gleefully smash ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Iraq's second city of Mosul. Photo: AFP

Louvre condemns Iraq jihadist statue-smashing

Paris's famed Louvre museum on Friday reacted in shock to the destruction of priceless artefacts by jihadists in Iraq, saying they hit at the heart of "humanity's memory." READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Here's how to be cool in Paris, according to Parisians
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best one to work in?
National
How can France enforce a no-drone zone over Paris?
National
Why do so many women in France smoke throughout their pregnancy?
National
VIDEO: Banned but beautiful - Paris seen through the eyes of a drone
Culture
What's on in France: Ten things to do in March
National
Would you want this Frenchman to squeal at YOUR wedding?
National
'We're back' - Charlie Hebdo magazine returns with a bite
Society
Handsome men on the Paris Metro are unknowingly going viral
Society
What are the little things that make France so different?
National
Should we be worried about drones being flown over Paris?
Travel
Another deadly avalanche in the French Alps
National
Text offences: Why French workers need to watch out in future
Gallery
Mont-Saint-Michel cut off as 'supertide' season opens in France
Gallery
Ten great moments for France throughout Oscar history
Culture
Anglo-French marriage problems begin long before anyone says 'Oui'
Travel
'The stars are aligned': Why now is the time to buy a house in France
National
IN PICTURES: 'Supertide' brings crowds to the French coast
Gallery
French property Face-off: Two luxury chalets in the French Alps
Travel
French coastal towns are braced for the 'tide of the century'
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Politics
Socialist rebel MPs are angry but not ready to topple French government
Society
France to welcome another US fast food giant
Culture
Les Entrepreneurs: How to watch Paris theatre shows in English
Culture
So where are all these swinging sex clubs in Paris?
Sport
VIDEO: 'We're racist' - Chelsea fans push black man off Paris Metro
Culture
Sex clubs touted as latest fashion in Paris
Culture
In pictures: The ever-colourful Dunkirk carnival
National
Do you worry about your French accent? Perhaps you have no need to
National
VIDEO: 'Fear and loathing' - Being a Jew in Paris
National
Why the DSK trial could spell bad news for French prostitutes
Society
The sorry recent history of anti-Semitic attacks in France
National
'Je suis Danois' - Paris shows solidarity with Copenhagen
Culture
Obituary: Louis Jourdan - The actor who embodied French elegance
National
France outraged after hundreds of Jewish tombs vandalised
Culture
Romance in France: Sex, Champagne and Je t'aime
Culture
Fox News was right, there are no-go zones in Paris (for anyone single)
Culture
Fifty Shades of Grey OK for French 12-year-olds
Culture
French property face-off: Rustic cottage vs manor
Politics
New Muslim party aims for French election wins
Gallery
What do the French get superstitious about?
International
Paris starts lawsuit over Fox News's no-go zones
National
Gun ads see French cops compared to Dirty Harry
Travel
The world's most popular selfie spot has been revealed...
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se