In an apparent shift to the right in French immigration policy, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government deported a record number of illegal migrants last year, according to Reuters.
Figures released Tuesday show that 32,912 foreigners were expelled in 2011, a 17 per cent increase from the year before.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who had pledged to crack down on immigration when he was appointed, told a press conference that the target for next year was 35,000 deportations.
The crackdown follows Sarkozy’s 2010 decision to ban the full face veil worn by Muslim women in French society, and Gueant’s comment on Muslims praying in the street leading to the French “no longer [feeling] at home.”
“We reject … cloistered lives… those that live by their own laws,” Gueant told reporters. “The foreigners that we welcome here must integrate themselves.”
All this should come as no surprise: with national elections imminent in April-May of this year, and polls showing increasing support for Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party and its anti-immigration stance, Sarkozy will probably use any means necessary to bolster his shaky voter base (while he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy for re-election, Sarkozy is widely expected to run).
Even if it is at the risk of alienating France’s immigrant citizenry, especially its Muslim population, the largest in Europe.