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French PM presents bill to limit influx of poor, unskilled immigrants

[JURIST] French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile] Thursday presented a draft bill to the French cabinet [press release, in French] introducing the concept of selective immigration [PM remarks, in French]. Under the proposed bill, immigration by highly skilled workers and educated professionals would be favored, but the poor and unskilled from outside the European Union (traditionally, the Middle East and Africa) would no longer be allowed to bring family members to France unless they can prove they are able to provide for them financially outside of welfare benefits. Newcomers would be required to sign what's been termed a "welcome and integration" contract obligating them to learn French, respect French values, and actively seek employment. The proposed bill marks a significant shift in French immigration policy, where historically the primary source of legal immigration has been the family members of immigrants already working in France.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile], who pleased voters with his hard-line response to the riots in immigrant neighborhoods last November [JURIST report], developed and originally announced the selective immigration bill [JURIST report] earlier this week, arguing it is the way for France to remain competitive in the era of globalization. Officials say it is partly modeled on systems already in place in the US and Canada. Human rights groups and opposition politicians have already criticized the legislation, however. Immigration will undoubtedly be a prime issue in presidential elections next year, in which both Prime Minister de Villepin and Interior Minister Sarkozy are expected to run. The International Herald Tribune has more. Le Figaro has local coverage and Le Monde has additional coverage [both in French].

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