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Opposition slams Sarkozy plan to revoke immigrants' citizenship

3 min

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal to strip naturalised French nationals of their citizenship if they endanger the lives of police officers has come under fire from opposition groups.


Opposition politicians and elements of the media have rounded on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposals to strip French nationals of foreign origin of their citizenship if they endanger the lives of police officers as a cynical attempt to divert attention from recent political scandals.

Sarkozy outlined the proposals on Friday in the south-eastern city of Grenoble, after violent clashes between local youths and the police rocked the Alpine community.

The violence was triggered by the shooting of a local resident by the police who was fleeing from an armed robbery at a casino. Officials have reported that some youths fired on the police in the ensuing unrest and cars were set ablaze.

Keen to be seen to be taking a firm hand, the French president declared that "French nationality should be earned. One must know how to be worthy of it." He went on to say that French nationality should be revoked "from any person of foreign origin who voluntarily threatens the life of a police officer" or other public authority figures.

Sarkozy said a bill would be presented to the lower house of parliament in September.

Exactly how “foreign origin” would be determined, what process would be used to remove someone’s citizenship, and whether it would be legal under France’s constitution remains unclear.

Earlier in the week, Sarkozy stirred up a storm when he took a similarly tough line on France’s immigration law, seeking to make it easier to expel Gypsies, or Roma, who are in the country illegally.

'This speech is a declaration of war against the (French) Republic'

This raft of policy proposals comes in the wake of a series of murky corruption allegations that have been splashed across the front pages of French newspapers. It has been claimed that members of Sarkozy’s UMP party took illegal cash donations from France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

In a statement Sunday, the opposition Socialist Party said Sarkozy was “trying to distract (the public’s) attention by using that old standby - provocation.”

The centrist Journal de Dimanche on Sunday quoted Olivier Besancenot, outspoken leader of the far-left New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), who argued that Sarkozy’s UMP party was “a government in crisis, playing on people’s fears to distract attention from the Bettencourt case.”

Mouloud Aounit, the head of the MRAP anti-racism organisation, said the proposals would be divisive and unconstitutional.

“This speech is a declaration of war against the (French) Republic,” he told the newspaper.

French Communist leader Pierre Laurent said: “He is trying to shift the political debate to distract attention from his failures,” he said.

‘War against insecurity’

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux pledged to begin enforcing these new measures, which include dismantling of Roma camps around the country, as early as next week.

Hortefeux told Le Parisien newspaper measures against citizens of foreign origin would be pushed through as quickly as possible: “When we must adapt to or confront new difficulties, we don’t hesitate to do so. We’re waging a war against insecurity. We’re on the side of the victims and we have but a sole enemy: the crooks.”

He added that he could envisage extending the circumstances in which people could be stripped of their citizenship to those involving “female circumcision, human trafficking or serious acts of delinquency.”

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