France's new government

French interior minister to issue 'objective' rules on immigrants' right to stay

Reuters/Philippe Laurenson

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls is to issue new instructions on giving residency papers to immigrants, accusing former President Nicolas Sarkozy of blaming immigration for France’s problems. But, he says, no more people will be given official papers than under the former, right-wing government.

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Under Sarkozy the criteria for giving out residency papers were “much too restrictive and were not applied uniformly throughout the country”, Valls told Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday.

So he has drawn up what he believes to be clear and fair national criteria. They are:

  • Length of stay in France;
  • Work situation;
  • Family in France;
  • Children in French schools.

But, he told the paper, the "precise, objective, comprehensible" guidelines will not mean more people are given their papers than the 30,000 who received them every year under Sarkozy.

Parliamentary elections 2012

“I want to end arbitrary treatment,” he said. “But people who are eligible to be sent away, and there will be some, must be treated with dignity and be able to exercise their rights.”

Rights campaigners organised many demonstrations and petitions over the situation of so-called "sans-papiers", many of whom have been living and working in France  for years, under Sarkozy.

Many have called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants and want the Hollande to issue papers to far more people than Valls appears to envisage. He now says that deportations will continue.

“Today the economic and social situation of France doesn’t allow it to take in a regularise as many people as some people want,” he told Le Monde.

Valls was the most right-wing Socialist to try and win the party’s presidential nomination. But he denied the accusation that he is the Hollande government’s “Monsieur Sarkozy” and accused the previous government of scapegoating immigrants and conducting a policy by which “the immigrant was held responsible for all the French people’s problems”.

Massinissa, originally from Algeria, has a master's degree in psychology from a French university and is trying to work as a psychologist in France ... so far unsuccessfully. 

"I have even tried to apply for French nationality since I have been in France for several years now," he told RFI. "The person who interviewed me told me my dossier looked good, that I was well integrated, I have always had a job. I have French university degrees, bachelors, masters, etcetera, but because I still have a student visa, I don’t have the right to apply for nationality in France.

"So, there you go. I have nothing. They said I have to start by changing my visa status first. I said that when I tried this, they obstructed me all the way. But you have to start with that. What can I do? I don’t understand anything any more."
 

Further instructions are being drawn up to end detention of families, make it easier to gain French citizenship – naturalisations having dropped 40 per cent in 2010-2011 – and create new residency papers lasting three years.
 

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