By ELAINE GANLEY, Associated Press July 30, 2010
PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that he wants to revoke the
French citizenship of immigrants who put the lives of police officers in
danger as part of a "national war" on delinquency.
In a speech in Grenoble, the site of recent urban unrest, Sarkozy said
that the current list of causes for revoking French nationality would be
reevaluated and "rights and benefits" accorded to illegal immigrants would
Meanwhile, a video posted on the Internet showing riot police roughly
rousting African immigrant squatters, including one visibly pregnant
woman, from an encampment at a housing project prompted shocked reactions
around the country.
The video shot by a member of a housing-rights organization shows police
wearing leg protection pulling women, some with babies on their backs, and
in one case dragging a woman across the ground with her infant trailing
behind in the dirt.
No one was injured in the July 21 operation in La Courneuve, a suburb
northeast of Paris, local officials said, but human rights advocates
denounced the "brutal evacuation" of some 200 people.
Family Planning, an international women's health group, issued a statement
saying it was "scandalized, shocked, outraged and even sickened by the
conditions" of the mass evacuation of women and children.
MRAP, a leading human rights group, said people in the video had all been
expelled from previous housing and provided with no long-term solutions.
The squatters physically resisted, "attaching themselves to each other,
lying down, sometimes kicking and hitting police," the government of the
Seine-Saint-Denis region around La Corneuve said.
The evacuation was handled "according to legal procedures and rules in
such circumstances," and no one was injured, it said in a statement.
The French president, a former interior minister, has projected a
law-and-order image, and named a former police official as prefect, the
highest state authority, for the region around Grenoble after youths and
police clashed this month at a housing project that is home to many
Two days ago, Sarkozy ordered the expulsion of Gypsies living in France
illegally, saying their camps should be "systematically evacuated." That
order came after police clashed this month with Gypsies, known as Roma, in
the Loire Valley following the shooting death of a youth fleeing police.
The pronouncement caused special outrage because Sarkozy singled out a
particular ethnic group in a country official that's official blind to
Sarkozy said he wants immigration laws changed to make it easier to expel
people "for reasons of public order."
Sarkozy traveled to Grenoble Friday for the induction ceremony of a new
prefect, Eric Le Douaron, and used the occasion to announce a new
get-tough approach to delinquency that notably hits hard on immigrants who
disobey the law.
"French nationality should be earned. One must know how to be worthy of
it," the president said. French nationality should be revoked "from any
person of foreign origin who voluntarily threatens the life of a police
officer" or other public authority, he said.
The violence outside Grenoble, in the southeast, was triggered by the
police killing of a resident fleeing after an armed robbery at a casino.
Officials said some youths fired on police in the ensuing unrest.
Tensions have simmered in heavily immigrant projects around France since
nationwide riots in 2005.
Human rights organizations joined political rivals to denounce Sarkozy's
decision to target French of immigrant origin.
"The xenophobia of Nicolas Sarkozy threatens democracy," the League of
Human Rights said. For the conservative leader's main rival, the Socialist
Party, "There are rules that are valid for all French ... You are French
or you are not French."
Many claimed that Sarkozy, plummeting in the polls, was using
law-and-order and immigration issues to gain backing from deeply
conservative swaths of the population and the minority far-right.
Julien Proult in Paris contributed to this report.