French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for a second term in the upcoming presidential elections, has proposed cutting immigration to France by half. Young people in Cameroon are not amused.
By Mohamadou Houmfa, Yaoundé
The French cultural centre Campus France in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé is almost always full of young students wishing to pursue their studies in France. Like Jean Paul Effa, a student at the University of Yaoundé, they all nurture hopes of going abroad. French President’s Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent proposal to cut immigration by half does not deter them.
“There will always be immigration to Europe, it will never stop,” says Effa. He believes, like many Cameroonians, that the proposal is nothing but an electoral promise. “It’s all politics, the French president is trying to boost his electoral campaign and this is simply one way to achieve his goal,” he says.
Marthe Ngo Nyagné, another student at the University of Yaoundé, agrees. “I think Nicolas Sarkozy is using the immigration issue as an electoral manoeuvre, because he is desperate,” she says. “People have been migrating since mediaeval times. Large number of immigrants, who became citizens of their host countries, have founded families and contributed, over time, to the development of those countries. Immigration to France will not be ended by Nicolas Sarkozy, who is himself of Hungarian origin,” she adds, lashing out at the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) presidential candidate.
Marcel Die Mama, a lecturer, finds the French president’s proposition unrealistic. “This plan to reduce immigration would have a serious impact on the French economy, as the French population is aging. France needs a new workforce and, because of the low birth rate, its aging workers are not being replaced by younger ones.”
Mama adds that there are also jobs French citizens are not willing to do, creating a need for migrant workers.
Despite the general rejection of the French president’s proposal on the streets of the Cameroonian capital, there are also some young people who say they understand and approve of it. Landji Daouda, an IT engineer, is one of them: “As far as I am concerned, President Sarkozy is far from being an ideal leader, but I think he is honest and straightforward. Europe is overcrowded. As a leader, his role is not to nurture people’s feelings. He must preserve and promote the interests of his electorate.”
As a former French trust territory, Cameroon has always remained very interested in French politics. The big Cameroonian community in France provides financial support for many people back home - changes to France’s immigration policy could have an immediate impact on that situation.