Sarkozy’s interior minister added that he wants thousands more expelled this year, along with fewer foreigners legally living in France. Anyone who wants to stay, he added, must shed the traditions that contradict French values.
The conservative president is unpopular and facing a tough challenge from the left and the resurgent far right in presidential elections to be held in April and May in an increasingly diverse France. Sarkozy hasn’t formally declared his candidacy but is widely expected to run.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant lauded the government’s record, saying French authorities expelled 32,912 illegal immigrants in 2011, up 17.5 percent from 2010.