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Immigration

Published on February 27, 2008
Interview given by M. Brice Hortefeux, Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development, to the weekly, "Le Figaro Magazine",(excerpts)

Paris, January 19, 2008

2007 FRENCH IMMIGRATION FIGURES

[*Q. – How did your ministry do in 2007?*]

THE MINISTER – In 2007, the new immigration policy produced results. We have embarked on a fourfold break with the past. First, the number of illegals – usually put at between 200,000 and 400,000 – fell in France for the first time in a generation.

Second point: for the first time in 30 years, job-related immigration is increasing and family reunion immigration is decreasing.

Thirdly, France is taking in more genuine political refugees, and we’re discouraging abusive applications.

Finally, the number of voluntary returns is up: in 2007, 4,600 people left France with financial assistance to facilitate their reintegration, compared with 2,400 in 2006.

[*Q. – But how can you say the number of illegals is falling since, by definition, it appears impossible to obtain figures?*]

THE MINISTER – Four pointers make me think that, overall, the number of illegals has fallen by around 6%.

I note, firstly, that the number of undocumented people benefiting from State medical services dropped 4% between September 2006 and September 2007.

Secondly, the number of removals – i.e. undocumented people present in France who are deported to their country of origin – has remained very high: nearly 23,000 removals in 2007. All in all, since 2002, over 105,000 illegals have left France.

Furthermore, we turned back 26,500 people in 2007, i.e. foreigners who had tried to enter France without a visa but were prevented from doing so. Thanks to tighter controls, since 2002 a total of 205,000 illegals have been returned to their country before even setting foot in France.

Finally, the number of rejected asylum applications has fallen. 35,200 asylum applications were received in 2007 – a 10.5% drop compared with 2006. And 26,400 were rejected, as against 32,000 in 2006. Fewer rejected applications means fewer illegal immigrants. (…)

[*Q. – In view of all these figures, can France still be considered a land of welcome?*]

THE MINISTER – It’s precisely because she’s fighting immigration abuses that France can remain true to her tradition of welcoming asylum seekers. France is no longer the European country with the most asylum applications, but she still takes in genuine political refugees. I need only point to the fact that in 2007, over 8,700 were granted refugee status – 19% up on 2006. (…)

ATTALI COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION / JOB-RELATED IMMIGRATION / FAMILY REUNION IMMIGRATION

[*Q. – The Attali Commission is going to recommend a new wave of immigration, taking the view that having more immigrants could meet the needs of the labour market. What do you think about this?*]

THE MINISTER – If the aim is to develop job-related immigration to match family reunion immigration, this is exactly in line with the letter of engagement sent to me by President Sarkozy and the Prime Minister, who, by 2012, want the proportion of immigrants coming in to take up jobs to be the same as that of people accepted on family reunion grounds. So it’s consistent with the policy we want to conduct.

Between 2006 and 2007, the number of foreigners coming to work in France rose from under 10,000 to over 16,000. Over the same period, the number of people accepted on family reunion grounds decreased by 12.3% (88,005 people compared with 100,323). It’s a historic figure, since it’s the first time in 30 years that family reunion immigration has significantly fallen.

ECONOMIC IMMIGRATION

[*Q. – When and how are you going to define the quotas for economic immigration, and what are they?*]

THE MINISTER – Starting from the principle that France has the right to choose whom she wants to accept on her territory, as does every country, we must progress towards defining a genuine quotas policy. This is one of our priorities for 2008. We have already clarified and classified the criteria for access to economic immigration into France in three categories. First of all, European Union nationals, for whom we have opened up 150 job sectors and applied the Community preference.

In the second category, that of third countries, access to the labour market is limited to 30 job sectors. Indeed, the aim is to cut the unemployment rate, which is 8% for the French, but 22% for the immigrant population. I should like job opportunities first to be offered to those legally established in France.

Finally, there’s a third category, that of the countries with which we have traditional links. These are, in the main, the countries of Africa and Asia. This is why I have signed bilateral agreements with Benin, Gabon and Congo. Similarly, I’m preparing an agreement with The Philippines.

Let me add that several countries, such as Tunisia and Senegal, have told us of their interest in a quotas system already in operation, to a certain extent, with Spain and Italy. And I’ve already put in place, for particularly skilled workers, a specific procedure allowing them a three-year, once renewable, permit to stay in France. This shows that by encouraging the movement of skilled workers, we are rejecting the brain drain. (…)./.

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