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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

France Deports Illegal Immigrants

The French interior ministry announced that it plans to double the number of illegal aliens deported from 10,000 to 20,000 per year. About 45,000 illegal aliens are apprehended in France each year, and the government announced that it would initiate weekly deportation flights.

France expelled 81 Romanians, mostly gypsies, this month and many complained that French police physically abused them. A week later, 43 undocumented Africans were deported to Zaire. The French Interior Minster warned that the highly publicized expulsions, following the suspension of the Schengen open-border agreement, demonstrated France's determination to halt illegal immigration.

Amnesty International criticized France on July 12 for expelling the Romanian migrants, saying that it has found that members of Romania's large gypsy minority were sometimes jailed, solely on grounds of ethnic origin, for disturbing public order.

The new French government has announced that its top priority is to create jobs--700,000 by the end of 1996. French employers have been offered wage subsidies if they hire unemployed youth and adults who have been unemployed for one year or more.

France became a magnet for North Africans, in part because of fringe benefits guaranteed by law: six-week vacations, mandated health care and a $1,3000 monthly minimum wage. But these same social protections, are also expensive. There is continued rhetoric, that if three million immigrants were expelled, there will be jobs for the three million unemployed French.

Observers say tensions are especially high in southeastern France, where many of the North Africans settled. A leading Algerian political activist warns that it could all end very badly, as tensions continue to rise.

French farmers in April 1995 stopped trucks bringing Spanish strawberries to France and destroyed them. The EU Commission threatened to bring France before the EU Court of Justice for failing to prosecute the farmers involved in disrupting internal EU trade. Spanish strawberries are reportedly cheaper than French berries because of the availability of cheap labor in Spain and the devalued peseta.

William Drozdiak, "'People do not dare go out much now'; Anti-immigrant mayor fuels tension," Washington Post, July 24, 1995. Marliese Simons, "France Takes Tougher Line On Foreigners," New York Times, July 23, 1995. "Amnesty hits France over Romanian expulsions," Reuters, July 12, 1995. Adrian Dascalu, "Expelled Romanians charge ill-treatment by France," Reuters, July 10, 1995. "Brussels acts against France in Spanish strawberries row," Financial Times, July 6, 1995.