France's Le Pen pledges no schooling for illegal immigrants

Ms Le Pen at a Christmas market in Paris on Thursday. She said that any foreigner using the public education system without paying tax in France would face a bill for schools.
Ms Le Pen at a Christmas market in Paris on Thursday. She said that any foreigner using the public education system without paying tax in France would face a bill for schools.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has proposed that the children of illegal immigrants should be refused public school places as part of tough proposals to restrict state services for foreigners.

"I've got nothing against foreigners but I say to them: if you come to our country, don't expect that you will be taken care of, treated (by the health system) and that your children will be educated for free," Ms Le Pen said on Thursday.

"That's finished now, it's the end of play time," she told a conference in Paris in comments that provoked a storm of condemnation from the Socialist government.

Opinion polls suggest the leader of the National Front (FN) will finish second in next year's presidential election, but she is hoping for new momentum after Mr Donald Trump's victory in the United States.

Ms Le Pen, 48, later clarified that she wanted to block education for immigrants who are in France illegally, not all foreigners.

Such a move would contravene current French law, which guarantees school places for all children.

She also said that any foreigner using the public education system without paying tax in France would face a bill for school, which would affect European workers based temporarily in the country.

"We're going to reserve our efforts and our national solidarity for the most humble, the most modest and the most poor among us," she told the conference.

The nationalist FN sees itself as part of a global revolt against immigration, established political parties and globalisation epitomised by Mr Trump's victory last month. Its leaders regularly criticise the use of France's chronically over-budget social security system for foreigners, arguing that needy French people should be prioritised.

Polls show Ms Le Pen qualifying for the second round of May's election where she is forecast to face - and lose to - right-wing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'France's Le Pen pledges no schooling for illegal immigrants'. Print Edition | Subscribe