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Sarkozy at a meeting in Bordeaux at the weekend Ap Photo/Caroline Blumberg

Sarkozy: France has too many foreigners

The French president, who is currently trailing in the opinion polls for next month’s election, said France needs to cut its number of immigrants and introduce tougher controls.

FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS Sarkozy has said there are too many immigrants in France and that he will halve the number of arrivals to the country if he is re-elected next month.

Speaking during a televised debate last night, Sarkozy said that integration is failing and that France must accommodate fewer people from other countries.

The president, whose father was a Hungarian immigrant, said that he wants to introduce tougher controls on the benefits immigrant receive.

Immigrants are currently entitled to the same benefits as people born in France. Sarkozy said he wants to change the residency rules so immigrants have to have lived in France for a certain number of years before being able to claim social welfare benefits for people on low pay, or pensions.

Around 180,000 people are admitted to France every year – a figure Sarkozy said he will cut to around 100,000, according a report in Le Monde.

The president emphasised that universal healthcare would not be affected by the proposed cuts, saying:

I do not want to call into question this French generosity

The president also criticised socialist parties across Europe during the debate and blamed them for the current unemployment problems in Spain and the United Kingdom.

Sarkozy is currently behind in the polls behind main rival Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande.  He is also facing pressure from the far-right National Front party.

Immigration has traditionally been a hot button issue in French politics. The country has had policies based on integration for several decades, a focus which has routinely been criticised by politicians on the right.

The first round of voting in the French presidential election takes place on 22 April.

In picture, video: Sarkozy seeks refuge from booing crowd >

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