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French migrants fear the future

Paris immigrants
Immigrants in Paris said they were worried about being branded scapegoats  

PARIS, France -- France's former African colonies and immigrants in French cities reacted with shock to the showing of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the presidential election.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he hoped President Jacques Chirac would win clearly in the second round on May 5.

"Whatever the result, the relationship between France and Algeria is conditioned by history and by the weight of immigration," he told Reuters.

Algeria is where Le Pen served as a French paratrooper during the war for independence that ended in 1962.

CNN's Robin Oakley says Le Pen's success has alarmed the rest of Europe, shocked the main parties and altered the French political landscape (April 22)

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CNN's Hala Gorani reports on protests in France that broke out soon after far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen secured a spot in the presidential runoff against incumbent Jacques Chirac (April 22)

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Le Pen shocked many in France by defeating Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. CNN's Jim Bittermann reports (April 22)

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On the Scene: Robin Oakley -- 'Shock, horror, disbelief' 

Press round-up: Political 'earthquake' hits France 
In-depth: France Decides 2002 

"The motherland of human rights has slipped towards a neo-fascism thought marginal and manageable," said an editorial in Algerian daily Liberte. "It is scary if this shows a swing of public opinion, an unforeseen drift to the far right."

Expressing shock at the result, Morocco's former minister for general affairs, Ahmed Lahlimi, said it would nonetheless "help the French people mobilise in support of the values of tolerance and respect for human rights for which the country has always stood."

"It is the racist, xenophobic France which is prevailing and that is frightening," said Notre Voie, the ruling party newspaper in Ivory Coast, a former West African colony with strong links to France.

An estimated three million North Africans live in France, sending home vital remittances. Hundreds of thousands more immigrants come from West Africa, where escaping poverty by living in France is the dream of a generation of youths.

Meanwhile in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, a big immigrant area, immigrant workers told Reuters of their fears of being made scapegoats for rising crime.

"I'm worried," Amrouche Ali, a heavy-set Algerian, told the news agency. "This result is very dangerous. Le Pen is a heartless man."

"Le Pen blames immigrants for crime," added Kamissoko Makan, a construction worker of West African origin in Saint-Denis. "I'm concerned for all immigrants in France."

France has Europe's largest Muslim population, of between 6 million and 8 million people, mainly of North African origin.

Immigrants also told Reuters they were worried that support for the far right could gather steam, even though pollsters give Le Pen little chance of winning the presidency in two weeks' time.

"It happened in Austria with Haider, why not here?" asked Sofiane Alirachedi, referring to Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party that has been in a coalition government in Austria since 2000.

"Le Pen has slowly gained support over the years. He manipulates people," added Alirachedi, whose was born in France of north African parentage. "If Le Pen wins, I couldn't stay in France."


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