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Visiting France

Sarkozy's party to clamp down on legal immigration

media A demonstration against the government's immigration policies in May AFP/Bertrand Guay

French Interior and Immigration Minister Claude Guéant has pledged to reduce the number of legal immigrants to France, during a conference of the ruling UMP party on immigration Thursday which may set the tone for next year's presidential campaign.

Guéant raised the idea of reducing the number of legal work visas given to foreigners in France back in April, angering business leaders, and then-finance minister Christine Lagarde, who said that France needs qualified labour.

But Guéant yesterday pointed to France’s high unemployment and said that the country does not need additional foreign workers, claiming that many would end up claiming state benefits.

“It would be irresponsible of my part not to act to reduce legal immigration in a country where public opinion is alarmed by our integration policies,” he told the conference.

The conference discussed toughening the UMP’s stance on immigration ahead of next year’s presidential race.

The party has 22 proposals, which range from hardening visa rules, to introducing harsher penalties imposed on immigrant families whose children skip school.

UMP party boss Jean-Francois Copé, who organised the meeting, is struggling to balance different factions in his party, some of whom would like an even harder line on immigration.

Copé has called on his party not to bring ideology into the debate on immigration policies.

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