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Protestors slam visiting French minister for immigration bill

[Senegal] Illegal Senegalese immigrants were rapatriated to Dakar from the Oujda-Angad Airport for Dakar on board a 737 Boeing of the Royal Air Maroc "RAM". Pierre Holtz/IRIN
Hundreds of illegal migrants from Senegal were repatriated last year
Over 1,000 protestors turned out in the rain on Friday to protest the presence in Benin of French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy took off for a tour of West Africa as the French parliament backed his bill making it more difficult for unskilled workers to migrate to France. The group of mostly students gathered under a heavy security presence near the presidential palace and outside the ministry of interior in the main city Cotonou, where Sarkozy was holding meetings. Parliamentarians, meanwhile, boycotted a luncheon planned with the French cabinet minister. Some of the protesters waved hand-drawn placards saying “Get out racist” and “Sarko go home”. Sarkozy faced similar protests in Mali this week, where he denied allegations of racism and said he sympathised with the predicament of Africans who see emigration as their only hope of a better future. But some of the protestors in Benin said the new French law, which will encourage the entry of highly skilled immigrants to the detriment of others, would encourage more people to risk their lives to reach Europe. “It encourages illegal immigration,” said French citizen and demonstrator, Laure Louvain. Thousands of Africans are piling into dug-out canoes and braving the open seas in the hope of reaching European shores and the chance of a better life. Many of them die on their dangerous journey, others are apprehended by immigration officials and deported, but a few make a new life in Europe. The Spanish government this week announced that the number of illegal African migrants turning up on the shores of the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa had increased dramatically in recent weeks. In an open letter to Sarkozy published in the Benin daily, le Quotidien Nokoue, Benin University Professor Albert Tevoedjre, said Africans from French-speaking nations had a legitimate right to go to former colonial power France. “Our shared history means that we have a right to France as much as, if not more, than certain European nationals who freely settle [in France],” said Tevoedjre, who accused France of having a “selective memory”.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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