French candidate suggests 'transit camps' for illegals

Saturday, April 27, 2002

PARIS -- Jean-Marie Le Pen turned up his anti-immigration rhetoric on Friday, saying France should set up "transit camps" for illegal aliens and even organize a "special train" to ship immigrants to Britain.

The far-right candidate for president also said he was "no more racist" than Tony Blair, an assertion that brought an angry retort from the British prime minister.

Le Pen's vehement opposition to immigration is well-known, but his choice of words angered many people. He used language that evoked the notorious transit camps of World War II, where thousands of French Jews were detained before being deported to death camps on "special trains."

"It's a horror what has been said," former education minister Claude Allegre said on France Inter radio. "It's a program that is not yet Nazi, but pre-Nazi."

Street protests against Le Pen continued on Friday, but were smaller than on Thursday, when an estimated 350,000 people across the country marched -- probably because many organizations were preparing for huge weekend protests across France.

Le Pen first suggested transit camps on French television Thursday evening, when he said illegal immigrants should be placed in "relatively comfortable transit camps" and then expelled.

Elaborating at a news conference on Friday, he said the camps would be similar to a Red Cross center for refugees in Sangatte in northern France.

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