Nicolas Sarkozy Says France Has Too Many Foreigners
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said there are too many foreigners in France and the system for integrating them is “working more and more badly”.
In a TV debate, Mr Sarkozy defended his plan to cut the number of new arrivals in half if he is re-elected next month.
Mr Sarkozy is trailing in the opinion polls behind the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.
He is also competing for conservative voters with the far-right National Front party led by Marine le Pen.
The president said while immigration could be a boon for France, it needed to be controlled more tightly through tougher qualification rules for residency.
Mr Sarkozy, whose father was a Hungarian immigrant, also said he wanted to restrict some benefit payments to immigrants who had been in the country for 10 years.
Tough new rules
He has often made controversial comments on race and immigration issues, sharply dividing opinion in France.
In 2005, just before the Paris riots, he described young delinquents in the Paris suburbs as “racaille”, meaning rabble.
As president, he has already pushed through tough new immigration rules, including the controversial deportation of Roma gypsies.
On Tuesday, his prime minister Francois Fillon caused dismay among Muslim and Jewish groups by suggesting the religious slaughter of animals was out of date.
The controversy started when a TV documentary said last month that all the abattoirs in Paris region only produced halal meat.