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France

Sarkozy calls for immigration reform, halal labelling at election rally

Reuters/Loic Le Loet

French President Nicolas Sarkozy shifted his campaign to be reelected to the right at a rally on Saturday, calling for new restrictions on immigration and taking up one of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s themes – the sale of meat slaughtered according to Muslim halal rites.

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The right of immigrants’ close families to join them in France should be curtailed, Sarkozy told the crowd at a campaign rally in Bordeaux.

It should no longer be automatic, he said, candidates should have to prove that they have “a job, a decent home and a commitment to learn French”.

Reform is urgent because immigration is an “opportunity” but can also be a “problem” if the system of integration “no longer works”.

Echoing the words of Interior Minister Claude Guéant on Friday, Sarkozy slammed his Socialist rival François Hollande’s proposal to allow non-European immigrants to vote in local elections.

The move would lead to identity politics, he claimed, with the danger that immigrant communities might “blackmail” local councils to force them to introduce measures favourable to their culture or religion.

They could include women-only hours in swimming pools, he said - a dig at Socialist leader Martine Aubry, whose home-base, Lille, has introduced the measure.

Guéant on Friday invoked the swimming-pool-separatism threat, as well as the spectre of halal meat being served in canteens.

Sarkozy on Saturday called for a legal requirement for halal meat to be labelled, a demand of the hard right that is opposed by abattoirs and farmers who sell parts of carcasses to the halal and kosher markets and other parts to food processing companies or other outlets that may mix them with non-halal meat.

The question became a campaign issue when Front National candidate Le Pen claimed that all meat sold in Paris was halal, a claim denied by butchers and the government.

Hollande’s campaign organiser, Pierre Moscovici, on Sunday claimed that the hala labelling proposal “stigmatises” French Muslims and had been judged impractical by the European parliament because of its harmful economic effects.

Guéant has “stooped very low”, declared Mohamed Mechmache, the chairman of a coalition of Muslim groups in the Seine Saint Denis area near Paris that is generally considered close to the UMP. He called on Sarkozy to "give a sign" to Muslims if he hopes to win their votes.
 

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