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Eighteenth Ambassadors’ Conference

Published on September 2, 2010
Speech by Eric Besson, Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Mutually-Supportive Development (excerpts)

Paris, August 26, 2010

FRANCE/IMMIGRATION

(…) Every day, France is a credit to her tradition of humanism, that of an open, generous country committed to welcoming foreigners.

In 2009, we issued 1,850,000 visas and 174,000 long-stay residence permits. 50,500 new foreign students have joined our higher education establishments. 110,000 naturalized foreigners have integrated into the national community. France stands out too when it comes to the acceptance of asylum seekers by being the leading country in Europe, and second in the world, just behind the United States.

I would like to be very straight with you: people who describe France as a fortress are talking nonsense. 80% of visa applications are approved. One in three asylum seekers is granted international protection. (…)

To remain an open, generous host country, we must also relentlessly combat the criminal rings organizing people smuggling and migrant trafficking. (…)

EUROPEAN BORDER GUARDS SYSTEM/ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

At European level, a high point of the past year was the adoption, on France’s initiative, of a roadmap to set up a European system of border guards. This nucleus of a European police for monitoring our external borders will draw on a strengthened FRONTEX agency, which will be given a wider remit and new operational resources.

At national level, 145 rings (up 44%) were dismantled and 4,734 traffickers (up 10%) arrested for questioning by police in 2009. We must now put just as much effort into operational cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. (…)

LEGAL MIGRATION

We are also pursuing our policy of promoting legal migration and solidarity by making France more attractive and encouraging mutually-supportive development, particularly in the framework of agreements on joint management of migratory flows.

(…) I wanted to open a new page through “tailor-made” agreements, taking into account all the different migration issues at global level.

Over the past year, we have signed new agreements with:

- Russia, to develop highly skilled labour migration and the comparative advantages of our companies in that great country;
- Brazil, particularly to strengthen people-to-people relations with Guiana;
- Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, to promote the mobility of young people who are the European future of the Western Balkans;
- Lebanon, to encourage the mobility of young people and professionals.

We are pursuing this approach through the dialogue begun with Qatar, Vietnam, India, Georgia, the Palestinian Authority, Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Albania. (…)

MEDITERRANEAN

Ambassadors, I would like to conclude my speech with the Mediterranean.

In December 2009, I proposed the creation of a Mediterranean Office for Youth, tasked with implementing a pilot project for youth mobility.

We are now 16 northern and southern Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Spain and France) committed to the “Mediterranean Erasmus” initiative.

From the start of the 2011/2012 academic year, we will be offering the best students partnership courses leading to degrees awarded jointly by participating countries’ universities. (…)./.

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