France Worried About Shortfall In Deportation Of Illegals

France worried about shortfall in deportation of illegals

PARIS, Sept 12, 2007 (AFP) – France's immigration minister summoned some 20 local government heads for a meeting on Wednesday to demand that they step up deportations of illegal migrants.

Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux called in “prefects who must improve their figures when it comes to border exits,” said a ministry spokesman.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who won election in May on a platform that called for tightening controls on immigration, has set a target of 25,000 deportations for 2007.

But fewer than 9,000 illegal migrants were deported in the first five months of the year, according to Hortefeux, who said this week that he was nevertheless confident of reaching the target.

The shortfall followed the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union, complicating the deportation process of Roma who used to make up about 30 percent of all illegal foreigners deported from France.

Between 200,000 and 400,000 illegal foreigners are currently living in France.

French authorities recently faced harsh criticism over deportations after a 12-year-old Russian boy was seriously injured falling from the fourth floor of a building during an attempt by the family of illegal migrants to avert arrest.

Amnesty International and other rights groups have protested against the government campaign to meet deportation quotas and the policy is raising objections from other quarters.

A group of Air France pilot and steward unions in July asked for an end to the use of the airline's planes for deportations, saying the expulsions can pose a security risk and cause disturbance.

Hortefeux is due to present to parliament next week a new bill that tightens the rules under which foreigners can join family members in France.

The bill stipulates that they must pass a French language test and that a foreigner living in France must show that he has the means to support family members.

The opposition Socialist Party has said that it will vote against the bill, accusing the government of violating “the fundamental right to live as a family”.

“This bill will deprive French nationals who are legal residents on French territory of their fundamental right to live as a family, just because they married a foreigner,” said Socialist MP George-Pau Langevin.