Europe Tightens Immigration Rules

By Marquand, Robert | The Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

Europe Tightens Immigration Rules


Marquand, Robert, The Christian Science Monitor


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.

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 Delanoee, and the head of the Socialist Party, Francois 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. …

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