PARIS, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- France expelled a record 39,912 illegal immigrants last year, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.
Radio France Internationale reported Wednesday that Gueant released the annual figures much earlier than usual in hopes of improving President Nicolas Sarkozy's chances of winning re-election this spring.
Gueant cited the "effectiveness" of a recent law reducing funding for foreigners to pay legal expenses while awaiting review of their bids to stay in France.
He said the country would tighten regulations on "marriages of convenience" to enable a spouse to stay in the country and seek annulments of fake marriage while adopting stricture polices on immigration to reunite families.
Gueant said the moves were part of an effort to return to 1990s levels of immigration to France.
RFI noted analysts say immigration has dropped in many European countries where economic conditions have made them less attractive.