November 30, 2005

France Weighs Immigration Controls After Riots

The French government Tuesday proposed tightening immigration controls to make it more difficult for foreign students and foreign-born relatives of French residents to enter the country. The plan was fueled by concern over unrest in immigrant neighborhoods, the scene recently of three weeks of street violence.

At the same time, the lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved new anti-terrorism laws that would allow increased video surveillance in public places and tougher monitoring of international travel by French citizens.

Several French political leaders have linked polygamy with the violence that struck more than 300 communities across France. Large families with multiple wives and numerous children foster poverty and lack of parental control over youths, the politicians said.

Polygamy is illegal in France, but the law has not been enforced among African and Arab immigrants who have imported the practice from their home countries.

The government's proposed law, which Villepin said would be submitted to Parliament next year, would make it more difficult for French residents and citizens to bring foreign spouses into the country and require longer waiting periods for legal immigrants to apply for visas for their spouses and children. Legal immigrants would be required to be able to speak French before family members could join them in France.

The new anti-terrorism measure, strengthening laws that are already among the toughest in Europe, passed the lower house 373 to 27.

Under the draft law, certain buildings, including department stores, mosques and synagogues, could be equipped with surveillance cameras. Aides to Sarkozy say he embraced the measure after seeing how effective video recordings had been in helping British authorities identify the subway bombers.

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