Record number of foreigners expelled from France in 2011
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France’s Interior Minister Claude Guéant has just released immigration figures for 2011, making them available much earlier than usual, in the hope that they will boost President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chances of winning re election this spring.
The figures reveal that a record 32,912 foreigners were expelled from France last year.
Guéant pointed to the “effectiveness” of a recent law which cut the amount of funding made available to foreigners to pay for legal expertise, while awaiting examination of their demands to stay in France.
But the expulsions also include a significant number of Romanians who, as European citizens can return to France soon after expulsion, sometimes only to be expelled (and counted in statistics) once again.
2011 also saw a 3.6 per cent drop in residence permits issued and a 26 per cent reduction in the number of salaried foreigners such as those working for big companies, settling in France.
14 per cent fewer people immigrated to France to be with their families, than in 2010.
Despite the 14 per cent drop, this is still by far the largest category of immigrants, with 45 per cent of the total and the 6 laws passed in the last 10 years have had little effect on that number.
There has been a 30 per cent drop in the number of naturalisations compared with 2010 – a record fall.
The refusal to accord naturalisation to the spouse of a French citizen is rare, but in 31 cases (up from 16) last year, it was refused on the grounds of failure to assimilate in France.
Guéant declared that he would toughen his stance on marriages of convenience and pursue annulments of bogus marriages, and also tighten up the rules on immigration to re unite families, all in a bid to return to 1990s levels of immigration to France.
With elections in April-May and the National Front hovering at around 15 per cent in opinion polls, Sarkozy will be hoping the figures attract some far-right voters – the strategy was successful in 2007.
Analysts point out, however, that immigration figures have dropped in many European countries whose economies are now less attractive to incomers.
Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP team invites comparisons with the Socialist Party which flirts with the idea of occasional blanket regularisations of immigrants as well as votes for foreigners – both measures the Sarkozy camp reckon to be unpopular.