Immigration out of control in France, says presidency hopeful Barnier

Michel Barnier, the former European Union Brexit negotiator and now a challenger for the French presidency said France had lost control of immigration and that a sense of impunity prevailed, Reuters reports.

Barnier, who is locked in a five-way race for the center-right Les Republicains party's nomination, lamented France's 'big decline' and said President Emmanuel Macron's leadership style was too arrogant and single-minded to heal divides.

"Immigration is out of control," Barnier, 70, told Reuters before addressing party members in Paris late on Monday. "Our security is no longer guaranteed. There is a sense of impunity and insecurity throughout the country."

Barnier proposes a moratorium on immigration to fix Europe and France's broken rules on migration, wants soldiers to patrol some communities where police are seen to have lost control and advocates a referendum on restoring military service.

An erstwhile moderate of the center-right, Barnier dismissed the suggestion he was being drawn onto far-right turf to win back conservative voters from far-right figures Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.

"I'm looking at the problem my country faces," he said.

The race for the center-right ticket is led by Xavier Bertrand, who heads the northern Hauts-de-France region, and Valerie Pecresse, leader of the Ile de France region around Paris, but Barnier has emerged as a credible challenger.

The party rivals have said they will back whoever wins next week's two-round vote by signed-up party members. Registrations have nearly doubled in recent weeks to about 150,000 and the outcome is uncertain.



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