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Sarkozy facing increasing pressure and criticism over Roma expulsions

This is a hot and sensitive issue in France at the moment and is related to a wider unease with immigrant populations in France. BBC posted a quality article on this, with a Q&A guide as well. Perhaps most striking is dissent within Sarkozy’s own cabinet and criticism of what many think is a low political move in an effort to gain conservative support amidst low approval ratings:

“…Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner – a former Socialist who made his name at the international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres – admitted this week that he was “shocked” by the focus on people of foreign origin….

…Further criticism came from the Defence Minister Herve Morin, head of the small New Centre party, who in a speech attacked “the policy of hate, of fear, of the scapegoat” and said any programme based purely on police repression was doomed to fail.

And on Tuesday, the Towns Minister Fadela Amara – herself of Algerian origin and an avowed left-winger – said she could “never agree” to a policy that placed foreign-born French citizens in a special judicial category….”

France has historically been less successful than the United States, the “melting pot” (itself a debatable idea) at integrating its immigrants into its society. Obviously successful immigration and assimilation requires two main elements: the will to become a respectful, law-abiding citizen on the immigrant’s side, and a welcoming environment on the country’s side. The U.S. has its own problems with illegal immigration and a backlash against Mexicans, among others, so France is certainly not alone in its troubles. But I know that from personal experience the French generally don’t take the first step at meeting newcomers -it’s up to the foreigner to take the initiative. Whereas in the U.S. you wouldn’t be surprised to have a neighbor bring over a housewarming gift or fresh pie for a new neighbor. This is a debate for another day… But I do know that many French people support the expulsions. It’s a difficult balance: many of the pick-pocketers in the Parisian metro and elsewhere are “gypsies” (Roma), but there are many others who just want to earn a living. We will see how this plays out.

For further reading:

The Economist
Le Figaro
Radio France International (RFI)
Le Parisien

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