French minister threatens to resign in immigration row
9 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) – A minister of Algerian origin in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government sent sparks flying Tuesday by threatening to resign in protest at a toughening of French immigration policy.
Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, one of a handful of left-wingers recruited to the government as a sign of openness, broke ranks over a bill that would bring in DNA testing for foreigners wishing to join their families in France.
“I'm not okay with this DNA business because I think we are touching something that is not good for our country,” the women's rights campaigner told France Inter radio.
“Speaking as an immigrant's daughter, I've had enough of seeing immigration exploited all the time, for very clear reasons. I think it's disgusting,” she added.
“I am a free woman, never forget that. Quite frankly, the day it really becomes unbearable, the day it gets too hard, I will leave” the government.
Patrick Devedjian, secretary general of Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, later told reporters Amara should not “insult the members of the ruling majority, ie those who support the government.
“She should think twice about her choice of words to describe something the parliament has debated and decided,” said Jean Leonetti, deputy head of the UMP group in the National Assembly.
Francois Goulard, a UMP deputy who opposed the DNA bill, asked what Amara was “doing in this government.”
“If you think the behaviour of some government members is disgusting, there is only one course of action: to leave.”
Introduced as an amendment to a wider immigration bill, the DNA measure has been approved by both houses of parliament but now goes to a joint committee of lawmakers to craft a compromise version.
It was heavily amended in the upper house or Senate following fierce opposition from left-wing critics but also some members of the ruling right, as well as religious leaders and campaigning groups.
Supporters say the measure would make it possible for would-be immigrants to speed up the application process by proving their kinship to family members in France. They point out that 12 other EU countries carry out similar tests.
But opponents say the bill would set a dangerous precedent by making genetic affiliation a criterion for citizenship.
African Union chief Alpha Oumar Konare has said the proposed DNA tests were “unacceptable at an ethical, moral and cultural level” while Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said they were “not respectful of human freedom.”