Wives and children of France's impoverished immigrants should stay in their home countries instead of leading isolated lives in cramped French housing projects, France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday. Sarkozy, a presidential hopeful who has championed a clampdown on immigration, urged restrictions on immigrants bringing family members to join them in France. He is to present a new immigration bill to the Cabinet next month. "An immigrant woman, trapped at home, who doesn't speak the language because her husband doesn't let her leave and doesn't put her in contact with literacy groups or French lessons, cannot have the right to residence," Sarkozy said in a New Year's address to the media. "You cannot regroup families when you have eight children and a studio of 10 square meters (110 square feet)," he said. "You can bring your family if you have the means to house them and allow them to live."
France's government announced tightened controls on immigration as part of its response to riots late last year in depressed suburbs where many immigrants live. It was the country's worst civil unrest in decades. So-called family reunions are the second biggest source of legal immigration to France, affecting about 25,000 people in 2004.
Sarkozy reiterated that he wants France to send 25,000 illegal immigrants back to their home countries this year, up from 20,000 last year and 10,000 in 2002. French immigration activists immediately slammed Sarkozy's proposals. "At the same time that we ask foreigners to integrate, we are putting them in a precarious situation," said Abel Mortada, member of an association campaigning illegal immigrants' rights, reports the AP. N.U.