Sarkozy wants to take away French citizenship of immigrants who attack police

By Elaine Ganley, AP
Friday, July 30, 2010

Sarkozy threatens immigrants who target police

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 be reviewed.

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 immigrants.

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 ethnic origins.

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.

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