France immigration bill under some fire.
France: The next bill that the French government surrenders on? This is getting ridiculous.
|PARIS (Reuters) - More than 5,000 protesters took the streets on Saturday against a draft immigration law that imposes tougher conditions on foreigners seeking to work in France. The protests come ahead of a parliamentary debate on Tuesday on the bill by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and which church leaders, immigrant support groups and the left-wing opposition have criticised as discriminating against the poor. The law would make it harder for immigrants to bring relatives to France, force newcomers to take French and civics lessons and end their automatic right to a long-term residence permit after 10 years in France. It would also create a three-year "skills and talents" residence permit designed to attract qualified workers. French police said on Saturday that about 5,200 people were peacefully demonstrating in the French capital. Separately, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard and head of the French Protestant Federation Jean-Arnold Clermont met with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, expressing their concerns about the bill. "There needs to be a balance between irresponsible laxity and an almost xenophobic firmness," Ricard told journalists after the meeting. He said Villepin had "heard" them. His comments were broadcast on French television and radio. "Contrary to what they (the measures) looks to achieve, they risk increasing the number of illegal immigrants while they are aimed at reducing them," Ricard wrote in the weekly Le Journal de Dimanche newspaper. In a statement following the meeting with the two church leaders, Villepin said the parliamentary debate could allow for amendments to the text, including for humanitarian treatment of immigrants. Earlier this week French church leaders said in a letter to Villepin that the new law would discriminate in favour of educated people and at the expense of poorer immigrants and make those without proper residence permits more vulnerable. Presidential hopeful Sarkozy on Thursday rejected charges his new immigration bill was a xenophobic drive for far-right votes ahead of 2007 presidential elections. He told French newspaper Le Monde it aimed to attract a new generation of skilled workers who would embrace French values and traditions, thus improving race relations that hit the headlines during last autumn's riots in poor French suburbs.|