France’s National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has pledged to refuse children of illegal immigrants access to public education, if she wins the upcoming French presidential election.
Firebrand political leader Marine Le Pen was at a Christmas market on the elegant Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris, yet her campaign message was far from full of Christmas cheer.
Speaking on Thursday 8th December, she laid out her proposals for a more hard-line approach towards immigration in France.
“I have nothing against foreigners. But I say to them: if you come to our country, don’t expect that you will be taken care of and that your children will be educated for free. That’s finished now, it’s the end of playtime,” Mrs Le Pen said.
Going further, she claimed that France’s current policy of not discriminating against the children of illegal immigrants, when providing them with access to state education, was actively encouraging foreigners to move to France, “acting like a suction.”
Le Pen’s comments have caused fierce consternation among many of her compatriots.
France’s Socialist education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, slammed Le Pen’s policy, calling it a slur “against French honor.”
“This declaration damages the image of our country and reminds all those who seem to have forgotten that Madame Le Pen refuses to be part of the Republican framework that forges the history and strength of our nation.”
“I remind you that it’s a matter of honor for the French Republic to guarantee to children, to all children, the right to an education — in other words, the right to a future.”
Currently, French law protects the right to an education for children in the country.
Undeterred, Le Pen also laid out further plans to restrict access to social services for migrants, under a prospective National Front administration.
She said that even for migrants who did have a legal right to be in the country, there should be “a waiting period” before having access to several aspects of social services.
“I think there is a certain amount of time for taxes from them before getting access to all the public services, like education, social security.”
While the official government line has been one of rejection, with many on social media joining in condemning Le Pen’s comments, the National Front is on the ascendancy.
France has been bruised by living under the shadow of more than two years of terror attacks.
A subsequent slump in national confidence, together with growing anti-immigrant sentiment, has been capitalized upon by the anti-immigration National Front.
Then there’s the 2016 phenomenon of anti-elitism and anti-status quo politics, which has swept across the globe, manifesting itself in the UK’s Brexit referendum, and the election of Donald Trump in the US.
Mrs. Le Pen hopes to carry that momentum with her, also pushing for France’s withdrawal from the EU.
Polls currently project that she would receive enough votes to qualify for the second round of May’s election, at which point she is not expected to go further.
However, five months is a long time in politics.
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