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Europe tightens immigration rules

France expected to pass DNA testing law for new immigrant families. In Switzerland, a conservative party wants to cast out 'black sheep.'

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 17, 2007


The ever-richer mix of migrant populations in Europe is a source of contention and part of larger, testier debates about the future of Europe. In France, the final language was settled upon Tuesday in a new law that includes DNA tests for immigrants wanting to bring family members here. Next door in Switzerland, voters are courted with an image of three white sheep kicking out a black sheep – a logo of the powerful right-wing Swiss People's Party, ahead of the Oct. 21 national elections.

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Race and migration policy changes are mostly conducted in Europe with polite decorum, not street riots. Europeans largely advocate tolerance and multicultural values. Even many immigrants say they understand the apprehension felt by traditional white populations over their rising numbers. But from Copenhagen to Vienna, restrictions targeted at Africans and Arab Muslims are coming, experts say.

In Paris, the new immigration law, now ready for the French Assembly, will require language tests and behavior guarantees by parents for children. The law, which includes a DNA test for mothers and kids, is backed by 56 percent of French, according to a Le Figaro poll, and is expected to be swiftly passed.

Yet immigration issues remain divisive even within the center-right government of Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the midst of the current DNA discussion, a new museum in Paris's 12th district, dedicated to immigrant achievements, quietly opened. Too quietly, say critics. While the mayor of Paris, Betrand Delanoë, and the head of the Socialist Party, François Hollande, attended, Mr. Sarkozy, himself from an immigrant family, was not present. "Sarkozy shows up everywhere in France and the world, but not here," said one museum official.

Sorbonne historian Patrick Weil resigned from the museum advisory panel over the direction of Sarkozy's race politics, including the creation of a new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity. He says the new president is alienating the 25 percent of French who come from nontraditional backgrounds.

"Our laws should be neutrally applied, and national origins should not bear on the matter," says Mr. Weil. "But the sentiments of the people are not neutral. In the polarized politics here, we have an anti-Muslim, antiblack feeling that is playing out through the policies of Sarkozy."

"Immigration is the problem of the 21st century for Europe," argues Thierry Mariani, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) lawmaker and author of the DNA test bill. "If Denmark, Finland, Norway, Holland ... countries that have a tradition of respect for human rights have accepted for many years the DNA approach, it is because there is a real problem."

Similar trends and views are emerging throughout Europe. In Belgium, one of the few agreements between the Flemish and Wallonians is to create far stronger measures to limit migration and asylum, and to make deportations of illegal workers easier. Last week, Holland debated whether to stop funding the protection of former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian who lives under a death threat by radical Muslims.

2007 Timeline of European Immigration Crosscurrents

May 2007 – European Union launches European Border Patrols Network. The official reported objective is to curb illegal immigration across the Mediterranean Sea and along the South-West Atlantic coasts and to detect emergencies at sea thus reducing loss of life.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Aug. 30, 2007 – French Immigration minister calls for a Europe-wide pact to keep immigrants from entering the region illegally. Minister Hortefeux called for tighter border controls, unified asylum policies, and fewer amnesties granted to illegals already in the area.

Source: The Daily Mail (London)

Sept. 13, 2007 – European Justice Chief tells European Union that it must relax its immigration controls and open the door to 20 million workers over the next decade, citing the need for more skilled labor from overseas.

Source: Financial Times (London, England) (According to an Agence Europe press release from Sept. 22, the Justice Chief Franco Frattini categorically denies having made this statement to The Financial Times.)

Sept. 19 – Legislation approved by France's National Assembly would allow immigrants to use DNA testing to prove bloodlines in order to bring relatives into their host country.

Source: The New York Times

Sept 27, 2007 – The EU Police cooperation agency announced an operational cooperation agreement between Europol and Australia, aimed at fighting drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal immigration.

Source: Agence Europe.

Sept. 27, 2007 – The European Parliament called for more legal immigration into the EU, citing aging population and low levels of skilled labor.

Source: The New York Times

October 2007 – The European Parliament's budgetary committee voted in favor of doubling the budget for Frontex, the European border agency, in an effort to reduce illegal immigration.

Source: Agence Europe

Oct. 15, 2007 – In a response to a question asked during a Parliament session, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that the British Government would intervene in the immigration policy of an overseas territory government, if that policy breached constitutional guidelines, legal provisions, or human rights obligations.


Compiled by John Aubrey