Q. – What’s your state of mind now you’re back at the Ministry of Immigration?
THE MINISTER – I go forward on the basis of three simple and fair principles. France, like all countries, has the right to choose whom she wants and whom she can take in on her territory. Moreover, a foreigner without the requisite documents is liable to be returned to his or her country of origin, except in particular political, humanitarian, religious or health situations. Finally, a legal foreigner, respecting our rules, must benefit essentially from the same economic and social rights as French people. It’s by fighting illegal immigration that we’ll succeed in integrating those foreigners who respect our common rules.
Q. – Confirmed breaches of the legislation on foreigners have fallen by 10% in a year; the number of deportations is decreasing… Do those results worry you?
THE MINISTER – Illegal immigration must fall and will fall. Since 2007, around 106,000 illegal immigrants have been removed. There have been 25,500 since the start of the year. We’re robustly fighting the traffickers, the mafias, all those modern slave-traders who exploit human misery: since January, 156 rings have been dismantled, as compared with 126 last year. So it’s record progress. Finally, we’re monitoring our borders better, because some 100,000 trying to enter without visas have been turned away in the past three years.
Q. – But asylum requests are on the rise…
THE MINISTER – I notice the asylum system is under strong pressure at the European level. Since 2008, asylum requests have increased by 18% in Germany, 24% in Austria and even 40% in Belgium. France doesn’t escape that trend, because we’ve gone from 35,520 seekers in 2007 to 47,686 in 2009, with a new rise of 8% in the first 10 months of the year. Our country is the third destination in the world for asylum seekers, after the United States and Canada. And the first in Europe.
Q. – What are your goals with regard to immigration control?
THE MINISTER – To reduce the pressure on illegal immigration, we must implement at the practical level the European pact I had unanimously adopted in 2008. Europe’s not a colander. It must provide itself with new border guards in order to control the external borders better. In parallel, I want to continue dialogue with the source countries. It’s the best way of controlling immigration, in particular with the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. About 15 agreements have already been signed.
Q. – What does your calendar look like?
THE MINISTER – I’m taking three initiatives. On Monday, I’ll be convening a meeting of all the préfets (1) to mobilize them again on the fight against illegal immigration. I’ve already given instructions to the 15 préfets who haven’t reached their targets. In the coming weeks, I’ll bring them together with the consuls to set them my priorities on the allocation of visas and ask them to be more vigilant in issuing short-stay visas, which mustn’t be “passports to illegality”. Finally, in the first half of 2011, I want to bring together the ministers in charge of immigration from the five countries which receive 80% of the migration to Europe (Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy, in addition to France), but also those from Malta, Greece and Cyprus, which are the main entry points for immigration into Europe.
Q. – Will your policy towards illegal camps continue?
THE MINISTER – There’s no question of stigmatizing this or that community. But I intend, of course, to continue dismantling the illegal camps. Crackdown isn’t a four-letter word. Since last August, 490 illegal settlements have been evacuated, out of the 600 recorded.
Q. – Can a figure be put on the cost of deportations?
THE MINISTER – When I was previously Minister of Immigration, between 2007 and the end of 2008, far-fetched and crass estimates circulated, talking about a cost of €2 billion. According to the report by the General Administrative Inspectorate issued at the end of 2009, the overall cost is €232 million. (…)./.
(1) High-ranking civil servant who represents the State at the level of the department or region.