DNA Tests and Deportation Targets French Left Resists Sarkozy's Immigration Crackdown

The immigration debate is hotting up in France, as left-wing politicians and human rights groups face off against the government's plans for tougher immigration laws, including DNA tests. Now eight Paris mayors say they won't cooperate with implementing Sarkozy's deportation targets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants tougher immigration laws in France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants tougher immigration laws in France.

The French goverment is toughening up its immigration policies, with plans to introduce DNA tests for prospective immigrants and demands that local officals meet their deportation targets. But the left is hitting back, with eight Paris mayors saying they won't cooperate and human rights groups accusing the government of treating immigrants as "disposable objects" instead of human beings.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy campaigned on a law and order platform, which included a pledge to crack down on illegal immigration and make it harder for foreigners to make France their home. His government is now considering introducing DNA tests for prospective immigrants, while his Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux has told local prefects they are not doing enough to hit the president's deportation targets.

Sarkozy had promised to expel 25,000 illegal immigrants from France by the end of 2007. But Hortefeux, who is head of the newly created Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, is struggling to meet the target, with only 11,000 having been shown the door in the first seven months of the year. "I want numbers!" Sarkozy told the minister in a meeting last month, according to Le Point magazine. "It's a campaign commitment. The French are expecting this from me," he was reported as saying.

But the first rumbles of rebellion are emerging. On Thursday, eight mayors in the Paris region lashed out at government pressure to expel more immigrants, a day after Hortefeux berated 19 regional officials for falling short of the targets.

In an open letter to the minister, the left-wing mayors said: "We remind you that we are doing our duty as citizens to protect inhabitants who live, work and study in our community," they declared. "We are not at your orders. ... Your obsessive vision of numbers … is more condemnable because human beings are involved."

Human rights groups have also denounced the government for emphasizing the volume of expulsions. Anti-racism group MRAP said that the deportation drive was turning immigrants into "disposable objects." Pierre Henry, director-general of the non-governmental organization France, Land of Asylum, told the radio station Europe-1 that he accepted that "the state has the right to say who can come in, who leaves and how." But, he said, "The problem is when expulsion policy becomes the alpha and omega of migration policy."

Tensions have also been raised after a parliamentary commission on Wednesday approved introducing DNA tests for family members of immigrants already in France. The measure will now be included in a sweeping immigration law to be debated by parliament next week, aimed at toughening visa requirements. "No subject should be taboo," Hortefeux told reporters on Thursday.

Serge Blisko, a Socialist deputy of the National Assembly, pointed out that many countries lack DNA testing facilities and warned that it could lead to a "genetic screening" of foreigners. Bertrand Pancher, a member of Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), voiced concerns about how adopted children would be affected.

France's League for Human Rights noted that the tests cost several hundred euros and and would be beyond the means of most applicants from poor countries, so that the measure would effectively "filter" poorer immigrants. It also argued that the measure is not constitutional, as the French civil code forbids DNA tests for anything other than scientific or medical purposes.



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