• 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
Paris's bohemian canal - now more tip than hip
Photo: Welcome to Canal Saint Martin

Paris's bohemian canal - now more tip than hip

Picnickers and partygoers are turning Paris’s iconic Canal Saint-Martin into a rubbish dump and an outdoor toilet with frustrated residents launching a new social media campaign to highlight the problem. READ  

France probes theft of explosives from army
Explosives and grenades have been stolen from a French army depot. Photo: AFP

France probes theft of explosives from army

France's ministry of defense has ordered security checks be carried out on all army bases after thieves looted explosives and scores of detonators from a depot in the south. The theft comes as the country remains on high alert for terror attacks. READ  

Porn scandal sees Paris school ban smartphones

Porn scandal sees Paris school ban smartphones

A prestigious Paris secondary school has been forced to ban pupils from using mobile phones after several boys began groping girls after reportedly watching online porn on their smartphones. READ  

Migrant on way to UK dies in Channel Tunnel
The migrant was found dead in the Channel Tunnel trying to get to the UK

Migrant on way to UK dies in Channel Tunnel

A migrant trying to get from France to the UK was found dead in the Channel Tunnel on Tuesday, French authorities said. Eurostar and Eurotunnel train services to and from France were severely disrupted. READ  

Artist arrested for naked Eiffel Tower selfies
The artist posed naked with tourists in front of the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Peter Palm

Artist arrested for naked Eiffel Tower selfies

The Eiffel Tower may be the world's most popular spot to take a selfie but there are limits, even in the art world, as an artist known for her nude performances found out on the weekend. READ  

End 'mob rule' by French strikers: UK port boss
Striking French sailors start a fire on the Channel Tunnel train tracks causing travel chaos. Photo: AFP

End 'mob rule' by French strikers: UK port boss

The chief of Britain's Channel port of Dover has lashed out at the "militant" French strikers who caused chaos when blocking the Channel Tunnel last week saying "mob rule" cannot be tolerated. READ  

Rainbow Warrior bombing
Anger lives on over French bombing of ship
The hole in the hull of the Rainbow Warrior caused by a deadly bombing carried out by French intelligence services. Photo: AFP

Anger lives on over French bombing of ship

Thirty years after France's deadly bomb attack on Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship in New Zealand and anger still runs deep. READ  

France: 'We can't take risk of Greece euro exit'
Merkel nad Hollande present a united front in Paris on Monday night. Photo: AFP

France: 'We can't take risk of Greece euro exit'

While François Hollande and Angela Merkel maintained the pressure on Athens to make "serious proposals" the French PM Manuel Valls said on Tuesday the country could not take the risk of Greece leaving the single currency. READ  

Greece crisis
Hollande meets Merkel to seek way out of crisis
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with the Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens on Monday. Photo: AFP

Hollande meets Merkel to seek way out of crisis

UPDATED: French president François Hollande was due to hold talks with Germany's Angela Merkel in Paris on Monday as the heads of the eurozone's two biggest economies seek a solution to the Greece crisis. READ  

Far left and far right herald Greece’s 'No' vote
Marine Le Pen was thrilled by Sunday's Greek referendum result. Photo: AFP

Far left and far right herald Greece’s 'No' vote

While France’s mainstream parties differ wildly over what to do with Greece, the country’s more extreme political groups on the far left and the far right have both hailed the referendum result. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
France has two new World Heritage sites, but here's ten you don't know
International
Does France really have nothing to fear from a Grexit?
National
GPS helps blind French hikers cross mountains
National
Dreading the heatwave in France? Here's how to survive the sun
National
Brits might have the brighter economy but are the French happier?
Ryanair or French air traffic controllers: Who would you support?
How life will change in France as of July 1st
These are best places in Paris to escape the heatwave
Ten beaches in France where you'd love to be during the heatwave
Calais chaos: Travellers left to curse 'striking French'
Society
Why the French are right to strike (but perhaps not burn tracks)
National
Frenchwoman dies as bungee jump ends in tragedy
Travel
The most beautiful French villages you've never heard of
National
Can we really feel any sympathy for French taxi drivers?
Feigned French shock over US spying is not fooling anyone
Gallery
When Franco-American relations turn sour - Ten transatlantic scraps
Sport
Dozens fall violently ill after 'mud race' in France
How a genetically modified 'jellyfish-lamb' ended being eaten in France
Culture
Ten must-visit movie scene locations in Paris
National
Paris to return historic squares to the people
Forget Nutella here's eight things the French should really give up
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
It's time to lay off the French - They are not that rude
National
Just look at what France has given the United States over the years
Health
France's creaking health service must change if it wants to stay world's best
National
French warn UK: 'Brexit could be your Waterloo'
Europe commemorates 200 years since Waterloo
National
Waterloo: What you need to know about Napoleon
French told stop eating Nutella to save planet
Is it time for France's empty churches to be turned into mosques?
French people told to stop scoffing Nutella in order to save planet
Society
French school teacher shows his pupils porn film
National
IN PICTURES: See the blaze that ravaged a French basilica
Video: Tourists shocked by Calais migrants scramble
The French words the English language needs to steal right now
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Travel
13 ways France aims to become more welcoming to tourists
Education
Expat parents protest changes to admissions for Paris bilingual schools
Education
Test yourself: Just how good is your French grammar?
Travel
France to spend 'hundreds of millions' on tourism
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

3,590
jobs available