Feelings are running high as France’s parliament prepares to debate a draft immigration law that would impose tougher conditions on foreigners seeking to work in the country.
It is the brainchild of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who says it aims to attract skilled workers who would embrace French values and traditions.
“When someone asks to come to France, it is to our benefit,” he said on television.“Diversity isn’t a risk, it is an opportunity. But when you ask to come, the least that can be expected from the person being welcomed, and we are very happy to have them, is that they like France. That they respect it.
“You can NOT like France, you can NOT understand our laws. Well, in that case, you are not obliged to be in France.”
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has met church leaders to hear their concerns. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard says the question is how to find a balance between firmness and humanity.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris to oppose the bill.
“If Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t like France, and he doesn’t look like he likes it – or at least the same France as us, he only has to leave.”“ said one of the mayor’s deputies,
One demonstrator asked: “What law was there in France when he was born?” – referring to the Interior Minister’s origins as the son of a Hungarian immigrant. The parliamentary debate is due to begin on Tuesday. Further protest rallies look set to follow.