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France Sets Aside FCFA7.8b For Repatriation Of Cameroonian Immigrants 

By Kini Nsom

Illegal Cameroonian immigrants in France might soon be repatriated, The Post has learnt.
This follows an agreement signed between the French Prime Minister, François Fillon, and the government of Cameroon, during a two-day visit to the country from May 20-22. Fillon was special guest at the Unity Palace during a State dinner organised to mark the 37th edition of National Day celebrations.

At the end of his visit, France and Cameroon, signed three agreements. These include; Immigration, Defence and Health. Some observers assert that a fall out of the immigration accord will be the massive repatriation of some Cameroonians considered as illegal immigrants in France. The signing of the agreement translates a twist in policy and portrays how intolerant the Sarkozy administration has become with illegal immigrants. According to sources, the agreement requires that France will use FCFA 7.8 billion to repatriate illegal Cameroonian immigrants over a period of five years.

No matter how controversial such a decision may be, observers still laud France for tolerating illegal immigrants for so long. This tolerance is sharply at variance with the recent criminalisation of illegal immigration by Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi. In Italy, illegal immigrants are slammed heavy jail terms. The French Prime Minister equally signed another agreement with the Cameroonian authorities worth FCFA 502 billion. It will be used for agronomic research.

The defence agreement, amongst other concerns, is aimed at ensuring security in the Gulf of Guinea. It will also have to do with maritime security. It would be recalled that, French citizens were among the victims, which pirates kidnapped in the coast of Cameroon. The agreement is tailored to check the activities of pirates who, last year, came through the sea and robbed banks in Limbe, Cameroon, and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

Overall, all agreements between the Sarkozy envoy and the Cameroonian authorities are designed to give a new lease of life to Franco-Cameroonian relations. This is so because both parties have to continue to hearken to the new dynamics of international cooperation. In the present circumstances, France’s increasing friendship with Cameroon is also a way of galvanising and protecting its interest in the geo-strategic sphere of the Central African Sub Region. Although it has been mooted in diplomatic circles that the visit of the French Premier is also an opportunity for France to sign secret agreements with Cameroon; it is not known what these agreements are.

François Fillon, who headed a 120- member delegation comprising French government functionaries and business people, reportedly visited Cameroon 10 years ago as a Member of the French Parliament.  The French Secretary of State in charge of Cooperation and the Francophonie, Alain Joyandet, was a member of Fillon’s delegation. He was also accompanied by the French Minister in charge of Immigration, Eric Besson, who is said to have masterminded the agreement that borders on the repatriation of illegal immigrants of Cameroonian origin in France.

Fillon’s delegation, that includes 22 journalists, equally had the representative of the French Minister of Defence, Jean Marie Bockel. He calls the shots on all the defence agreements signed between the two countries. Besides meeting with the Head of State and members of government, the French Prime Minister held a conference at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, IRIC, and a press conference on May 21.

He visited the Institute for Agricultural Research for Development, IRAD, at the Nkolbisson neighbourhood in Yaounde, the Njoungolo Roundabout construction project in Yaounde, where France in chipping in FCFA 4 billion in the total FCFA 11 billion project. Fillon did find time to discuss with members of the French business community in Cameroon. Sarkozy’s envoy also took time off to discuss with his compatriots in Yaounde. The French Premier left Cameroon on Friday, May 22, for Nigeria, France’s biggest trade partner, south of the Sahara.

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