France to start setting quotas for economic migrants, says minister

France's labour minister Muriel Penicaud

France's labour minister Muriel Penicaud

Penicaud did not say how many foreign workers would receive visas or whether the candidate's citizenship would be taken into consideration - a proposal made by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe last month. French PM Edouard Philippe said last month he was not opposed to introducing quotas for migrants, part of an effort by his government to heed voters' concerns about immigration, Reuters said. Better regulation and curbing of immigration is a topic that President Emmanuel Macron has said would be at the heart of the next presidential election in 2022.

"If there is still a need, for the benefit of the country and that of the companies, we will bring in the people we need, depending on their profession and their qualification", Penicaud said.

The French Prime Minister said the 20 new measures on immigration his government unveiled on Wednesday were the mark of a "France that is open but is not naive".

Starting next year, authorities working with employers will identify industries lacking qualified candidates and facilitate the hiring of foreigners to fill the gap, Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said.

In 2018 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to protect his country's borders from illegal migration, with Budapest harshly opposing European Union mandatory migrant relocation quotas, and banning non-governmental organisations from providing aid to undocumented migrants. "It's a new approach, similar to what is done in Canada or Australia", Penicaud told BFM television.

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The construction, hotel and restaurant sectors, as well as some commercial sectors, have long complained of a shortage of people willing to work low-paying jobs. Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, said the measures were "politically cynical, scandalous on a humanitarian level and reckless in terms of public health".

Currently, employers have to take part in a complex administrative process and justify why a French citizen can not be hired for a position they intend to give to a foreign worker needing a visa.

The number of foreigners in France is not the No 1 worry of the electorate - who are more concerned about making ends meet and growing fears over the climate crisis - but Le Pen's anti-immigration party continues to focus on the issue and is seeking to win over voters from the mainstream right.

In the second quarter of this year, France received 28,575 asylum applications, or 426 per million inhabitants, according to Eurostat data.

Macron drew the ire of Bulgaria's government last week after saying in a magazine interview that he wanted migrants from Guinea or Ivory Coast, who worked in a legal way, rather than "clandestine networks of Bulgarians and Ukrainians".

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