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French far right poised to gain from wave of Tunisian migrants

The wave of Tunisian immigrants that arrived in France last week shouldn't plan on getting too cozy. The new leader of the National Front is poised to capitalize on what she says is an immigration crisis.

Illegal immigrants arrive on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa

Europe has been unable to stop the flow of Tunisian immigrants

French police say they have arrested some 100 Tunisians who landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa last week as they tried to enter France. The arrested immigrants, each carrying a document provided by the Italian authorities, are being held in detention centers across southeastern France.

Should these immigrants request political asylum, their demands would more than likely be turned down, and France would be under no obligation to allow them to stay. On Friday, French Secretary of State for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez made it clear that immigrants from Tunisia should expect no special treatment.

"The Interior Ministry will examine on a case by case basis those who qualify for the right to immigration. Those cases can only be very marginal," Wauquiez told a news conference.

Good news for the National Front

Marine Le Pen delivers a speech

Marine Le Pen is the daughter of far-right firebrand Jean Marie Le Pen

The government is taking a hard line on these immigrants - but that is not preventing Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the far right National Front party, from making political capital out of what she says is the beginning of a new immigration crisis.

In an interview with French public radio on Friday, Le Pen said the "great wave of migrants" was one of the consequences of the revolutions taking place in the Arab world.

"We have to reform our immigration policy and stop the system that's pumping immigrants into our country. That means revoking the automatic right of anyone born here to French nationality and stopping the insanely easy access to social security benefit, housing benefit, retirement pensions and free schooling," Le Pen said.

According to an opinion poll published Friday, if presidential elections were held tomorrow, 26 percent would vote for Socialist hopeful Dominique Strauss-Khan, 23 percent for incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy and 21 percent for Le Pen, meaning France would be very close to selecting the far right leader to go to the second round head-to-head against the Socialist candidate.

Author: John Laurenson /smh
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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