Speech by Dominique de Villepin before the Interministerial Committee for Immigration Control (CICI)

1. I have just chaired the fourth interministerial immigration control committee.

The work of this committee bears the mark of the strong mobilization of the government and the spirit of collegiality which guided our decisions: we wanted to take into account all the social, economic, development and security requirements that must be taken into account. to govern today a modern immigration policy, under the leadership of the President of the Republic. I am delighted that this work could have been carried out within a very short timeframe, thanks to the personal involvement of all the ministers and to the efficient coordination of Nicolas SARKOZY, who was in charge of preparing the bill.

Our common objective is clear: give France the means to control its immigration so that it becomes a real asset for our country. Because immigration can be an opportunity for France: it is a source of social, cultural and economic enrichment, if we know how to control it by enforcing our rules and our laws. It is a democratic requirement. This is the meaning of the choices we made today.

These choices, we want to make them transparently. The annual report that the Government sends to Parliament each year and that we have approved today guarantees this requirement. In the future, it will contain an estimate of the number of residence permits and visas that we plan to issue. It is not about quotas. These figures will be indicative, and they will demonstrate the desire to inform Parliament and all citizens on the policy pursued. They will also be a privileged instrument to better take into account the needs of our economy. Thierry BRETON and Jean-Louis BORLOO presented this morning two communications on this question:

They recalled that immigration can have beneficial effects for our economy, if it corresponds to its needs: our country needs above all average or highly qualified employees.

They also recalled that, thanks to its demographic vitality, our country will not need settlement immigration in the years to come.

Since 2002 we have been building a coherent, fair and rigorous immigration policy. Because for 15 years, the legislation on foreigners has changed too often, under the effect of political changes. Today we are completing the 2003 laws, we are strengthening them in order to better apply them. We are paving the way for a chosen immigration, in strict compliance with the Constitution and our international commitments.

Finally, these choices are in line with respect for democratic debate: a Senate Commission of Inquiry is currently working on the issue of irregular immigration. It will report its conclusions in April: we will take them into account during the parliamentary discussion of the bill.

Over the past year, we have taken important steps to strengthen the applicable rules:

- Since November 2004 the mayors have been able to check the reception certificates;
- The first biometric visas were issued in March 2005 and in June 2005 we decided to accelerate their deployment in a greater number of consulates;
- The control of the conditions of access to State medical aid was reinforced in August 2005;
- Return assistance was made more attractive and better controlled in September 2005;
- The right to family allowances for foreigners has been framed by the social security financing law so that they are reserved for families in a regular situation;
- The allowances paid to asylum seekers were reformed by the 2006 finance law in order to ensure more effective control.

Our consistency and our determination are yielding results:
- The fight against irregular immigration is more effective: * The number of removals of foreigners in an irregular situation has more than doubled since 2002 and reached 20,000 in 2005 * administrative detention have seen their living conditions improved and their number of places has more than doubled.

- The duration of asylum application procedures has decreased significantly: it is now less than 8 months. The number of new applications fell by around 7% in 2005 compared to 2004.

2. Today we want to open a new stage by modernizing our rules and enforcing them.

- Why this new step today? It is indeed a question of supplementing our legislation by equipping ourselves with the essential tools to fight against abuses, to prevent the diversion of procedures and to achieve a better controlled immigration.

- For weddings celebrated abroad:

These marriages fell from 13,000 in 1995 to 34,000 in 2004. It is the primary source of legal immigration. * This increase requires strengthening our means of control, while respecting the right to marriage of the persons concerned. * The Council of Ministers therefore adopted, last week, a bill to this effect, which I outlined to you on 29 November last. The Minister of Justice, Pascal CLEMENT, will present it to Parliament in the coming months.

- Second subject: welcoming foreign students:

* France is today one of the most open countries, with more than 50,000 new students each year, just behind the United States and Great Britain. This is proof that our country is attractive academically. * With Gilles de ROBIEN and François GOULARD, we decided to direct our efforts to welcome the best students, the most motivated, those who have a high-level study project: * By checking reality from the country of origin and the seriousness of the study projects. * By facilitating, in return, the procedures for foreign students admitted to France. * Students who will go beyond the master’s degree will be able to obtain, at the end of their studies, the authorization to work without having to return to their country to carry out this process. * This measure is in no way intended to deprive the countries of origin of their elites. It is simply a matter of allowing students who so wish to complete their training with a first professional experience in our country: because the current system encourages them to do so in other European countries or in North America. * Our cooperation policies with the countries of origin are aimed precisely at creating the conditions which will allow them to return home, once trained and enriched with their first professional experiences, to share their skills with their country. If we want hospital doctors trained in France to really go and practice in their country, we must first provide these countries with modern hospitals. It is simply a matter of allowing students who so wish to complete their training with a first professional experience in our country: because the current system encourages them to do so in other European countries or in North America. * Our cooperation policies with the countries of origin are aimed precisely at creating the conditions which will allow them to return home, once trained and enriched with their first professional experiences, to share their skills with their country. If we want hospital doctors trained in France to really go and practice in their country, we must first provide these countries with modern hospitals. It is simply a matter of allowing students who so wish to complete their training with a first professional experience in our country: because the current system encourages them to do so in other European countries or in North America. * Our cooperation policies with the countries of origin are aimed precisely at creating the conditions which will allow them to return home, once trained and enriched with their first professional experiences, to share their skills with their country. If we want hospital doctors trained in France to really go and practice in their country, we must first provide these countries with modern hospitals. because the current system rather pushes them to do it in other countries of Europe or in North America. * Our cooperation policies with the countries of origin are aimed precisely at creating the conditions which will allow them to return home, once trained and enriched with their first professional experiences, to share their skills with their country. If we want hospital doctors trained in France to really go and practice in their country, we must first provide these countries with modern hospitals. because the current system rather pushes them to do it in other countries of Europe or in North America. * Our cooperation policies with the countries of origin are aimed precisely at creating the conditions which will allow them to return home, once trained and enriched with their first professional experiences, to share their skills with their country. If we want hospital doctors trained in France to really go and practice in their country, we must first provide these countries with modern hospitals.

- Third subject: family reunification, which is today the second source of regular immigration after marriage and which concerned 25,000 people in 2004.

It is a right guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions: there is no question of calling it into question, but of better organizing it to facilitate the integration of the people concerned. I remind you that the regrouping constitutes the starting point of a durable installation in France. This is why the bill presented today increases the length of stay from one year to two years after which a request for family reunification can be made. * In addition, integration into our society, in particular mastery of the French language, will be a condition for bringing his family. Indeed, the future of the spouse and children is engaged, but also that of the whole society. It is therefore normal that we are demanding on the degree of integration of the applicant for family reunification.

- Finally, we have decided to strengthen our integration policies.

* The bill approved today generalizes and makes compulsory the reception and integration contract for all foreigners settling in our country: it is a choice to come to France, it requires efforts on the part of individuals and government support. * The bill also strengthens the evaluation criteria for judging the integration of foreigners who apply for a 10-year resident card or French nationality.

3. The second main thrust of the project we are studying today is to improve compliance with the law by combating illegal immigration.

Everyone can now see that irregular immigration is a source of precariousness for all those concerned, a calling into question of the most essential rights of the human person, an unacceptable drift for our entire society.

The bill repeals the provision which provides for the automatic issuance of a residence permit to any foreigner who has been in France for 10 years. This measure concerned a small number of people (less than 2,500 per year) but it could be understood as an encouragement to illegality and a legitimation of irregular immigration.

But we must remain faithful to our principles: we want to be able to regularize the situation of foreigners who, through their personal and family situation, are deeply linked to our country. The law will therefore continue to provide solutions for these cases. It is not a question of abolishing humanitarian regularizations, but of better supervising them to avoid abuses.

Finally, the bill gives us new means to fight against irregular immigration in the overseas departments and communities. Overseas, irregular immigration poses serious difficulties, given the geographical situation of certain territories. We must therefore, while respecting the Constitution, do everything in our power to ensure that the law is effectively applied there. Several measures in this direction were proposed by François BAROIN and approved this morning. They are based on the conclusions of the fact-finding mission of the National Assembly on immigration to Mayotte, which have just been adopted.

4. In all these areas, the government therefore remains faithful to the principles which have guided its action since 2002.

- Firmness first * To ensure that the rule of law is respected and to avoid abuses of procedure. * To verify the willingness to integrate foreigners.

- We must also act with respect for everyone and with a sense of responsibility: * To give foreigners the best chances to integrate and succeed in finding a place in our society. * So that we can welcome in good conditions all those who come legally to France and who conform to the principles of the Republic.

Thank you.

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