France’s interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, has announced a get-tough policy that aims to increase the number of expulsions of illegal immigrants to 20,000 a year, up by 4,000 from last year. “We need to be strict and firm on illegal immigration,” de Villepin said. “We can’t on the one hand make more efforts towards integration while on the other have the country turn into a sieve where, day after day, more and more illegal immigrants turn up.”
France will set up an inter-ministerial service to assess the situation and triple the budget assigned to expulsions to 100 million euros. The EU has no common immigration policy. But its biggest members are keen to see border controls at the edge of the Union tightened. Later today de Villepin will host a special meeting on immigration with ministers from Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy.
France estimates that it is home to up to 400,000 thousand illegal immigrants. Pro-immigration groups say France’s policy risks turning immigrants into scapegoats and stirring xenophobia. They want to see Spain’s system adopted where around 700,000 illegal immigrants have been allowed to apply for an amnesty in the past three months.