Skip to main content

Too many immigrants in France, Sarkozy says

By Alex Felton, CNN
updated 11:52 PM EST, Wed March 7, 2012
  • NEW: France has an influx of about 130,000 people a year
  • France is not integrating immigrants well, President Sarkozy says
  • He is running for a second term in office and facing a strong challenge
  • He says he cannot imagine his rival Francois Hollande as president

(CNN) -- France has too many foreigners and is not integrating them properly, President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview on French television.

"Today we have a problem," Sarkozy said Tuesday night on France 2 TV.

"Our system of integration is working worse and worse because we have too many foreigners on our territory, and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school," he said.

France places a premium on national identity, pressing the population to put "Frenchness" before religion or national background.

Sarkozy is running for a second term in office, with voting set for April 22. He faces a strong challenge from Francois Hollande of the Socialist party and a range of candidates from smaller parties, including the far-right Marine Le Pen.

No shock in France: Sarkozy will run

Sarkozy, a conservative, offered cautious praise for Hollande, but said he could not imagine his rival as president.

"Francois Hollande is an intelligent man," Sarkozy said. "I do not have a problem with him. The only thing is, he has never held office at the state level. Honestly, can you imagine Francois Hollande as president of France? Imagine it!"

He said peace in the Middle East would be a top priority for him if he were re-elected.

"I hope that France -- and all of Europe -- we would take an initiative for the year 2012 to be the year of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

And he said if he won a second term he would "celebrate with those I love -- my wife and daughter."

Issues surrounding immigration and integration have troubled French politicians for years.

Last year, a controversial French law went into effect banning Islamic face coverings in public places.

In 2010, hundreds of Muslim youths rioted after a man died in a shootout with police.

France has had an influx of about 130,000 people from other countries each year for the past several years, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The country also had about 48,000 asylum seekers in 2010.

The French population is about 66 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.