Dec 15, 2014 4:27 PM

Hollande: fear of foreigners must be stanched

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) President Francois Hollande on Monday praised the contributions that immigrants have made to France and criticized those generating fear of foreigners, an apparent reference to the growing voice and influence of the far-right National Front.

In his first speech about immigration since taking office in 2012, Hollande said an immigration policy is necessary to ensure both "dignity" for those it welcomes, and a cap on how many can be accepted.

He bemoaned the fact that acts of anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise in France and that some fear the "disappearance" of France, a reference to claims by the National Front and others that Islam will one day take over French civilization. Hollande noted that one in four French have at least one foreign ancestor.

"There are those who dream of a little France ... a France turned inward," Hollande said. "We must fight against these (ideas) in the name of France."

Hollande spoke at the inauguration of the National Museum of the History of Immigration, which opened seven years ago but without a formal inauguration by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy. The delay is a sign of how contentious the subject of immigration is in France, which has the highest Muslim and Jewish populations in western Europe.

The conservative UMP party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy quickly criticized Hollande's long wait to address immigration. As president, Sarkozy made reducing immigration a major policy focus. Now trying to make a political comeback, he said in a recent speech that immigration "threatens our way of life."

Hollande praised Europe's large Schengen zone of passport-free travel which the National Front wants to do away with but said he plans to propose adjustments to make the area 26 countries more secure. He did not elaborate on that.


Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.


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