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France, under pressure from right wing, toughens stance on immigration

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By Matthias Blamont and Christian Lowe

PARIS (Reuters) – France is to clear out some migrant tent camps, impose quotas for migrant workers and deny newly-arrived asylum seekers access to non-urgent healthcare, in a drive to show voters President Emmanuel Macron is heeding their concerns about immigration.

“We want to take back control of our immigration policy,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a Macron appointee, told reporters as he unveiled a package of measures on immigration.

“That means when we say yes it really means yes, and when we say no, it really means no.”

Macron is seeking re-election in 2022, and opinion polls show he will be in a tight race with far-right opposition party leader Marine Le Pen, who has bolstered her support by accusing Macron of being too soft on immigration.

Macron’s centrist administration has so far resisted pressure from right-wing rivals on immigration, but in announcing the new measures, it joins other European states, among them Italy, Britain and Sweden, that have opted to take tougher approaches on migrants.

The French prime minister said the new measures were the mark of a “France that is open but is not naive.”

“I think we have found the right balance between reassuring our citizens and not giving ground to populism” he said.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraten and Christian Lowe; Editing by Peter Graff)

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