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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une vie d’enfer promise aux immigrés

by By Émilie Rive

A Hellish Life awaiting Immigrants to France

Translated by John O’Neil

Translated Friday 27 January 2006, by John O’Neil

The basic components of a French immigration bill to be discussed in February make one fear the worst. The following is a dissection of a dangerous logic.

Scheduled for discussion in the National Assembly in February, the bill modifying entry and length of stay for foreigners and the right to asylum has been circulated since mid-December in the form of an interdepartmental working document.

The Interior Ministry has said for some time that it is necessary to change the current immigration law - or immigration laws rather - since it was in November 2003 and January 2004 that the "Sarkozy Laws" passed. A year and a half later, Dominique de Villepin resumed the work and his Interior Minister (Nicolas Sarkozy) forgot that he had announced that, thanks to his effective work, under Raffarin the immigration problem was regulated. The document in circulation is not definitive and is perhaps incomplete, but its logic is terrifying.

All of the dispositions which allowed a semblance of taking into account the fundamental rights of living together as a family, marriage, and health care are stiffened.

Immigrants who are not in good health are no longer automatically accommodated: they have to show proof of a year’s presence in France and prove that their state of health does not permit them to seek care elsewhere. They will no longer have the right to work. Would living without means of support guarantee a cure? If we add here the proposed restrictions to receiving state health care we will see that any idea of preventive medicine and public health for this population has vanished from the minds of those who govern.

Living together as a family, already seriously disrupted by the draconian conditions imposed on family reunifications in 2003 is going to become nearly impossible. They will be required to have stable family or personal ties over a five year period, resources at the level of minimum wage except for allocations, and housing in which the location, space, comfort and quality of the accommodation permit social integration. They will also have to demonstrate their integration into French society with their knowledge of and respect for the principles of the Republic and fluency in the French language. One might say that a foreigner who is not yet residing in France cannot meet the latter criteria and that the sponsors who have to satisfy the former are few. A Frenchman can live with his family in a slum or on the street receiving public assistance but foreigners must show that they have more than 1,200 euros and adequate housing to the satisfaction of the mayor of their municipality, who will then verify their “social integration status.”

Marriage is also in their sights. To obtain a permanent residence permit one will have to be married for three years to a French national and, if the ceremony took place abroad, the certificate had to be transcribed at the French public records office beforehand. To avoid deportation, the length of conjugal life with a French national is extended to three or four years according to the circumstances. A break-up, at the end of four years of marriage, will lead to the withdrawal of the residence permit.

A dangerous bill

Under the guise of economic utilitarianism, the text puts an end to the possibility of regularizing one’s immigration status after residing in France for ten years. Previous immigration laws allowed it under certain conditions. This bill would impose a series of temporary work permits which define the jobs to be occupied. Their procurement and renewal are subject to the employer’s goodwill. The administration will reserve “Ability and Talent” cards for a hand-picked elite. While quotas are not specifically mentioned, the results will be the same. France will mine the brains or brawn the corporate CEOs need, but only the brains will have a right to automatic family reunification after six months. The ideal immigrant must be single, healthy and hard working... and stay that way.

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