Setting out his priorities for the second half of his mandate, French President Emmanuel Macron said his centrist Republic on the Move party risks being seen as "bourgeois" unless it tackles the issue of immigration.

French President Emmanuel Macron in Bonneuil-sur-Marne, France on September 10, 2019.
French President Emmanuel Macron in Bonneuil-sur-Marne, France on September 10, 2019. (Reuters)

With an eye on re-election, France's Emmanuel Macron has signalled a tougher line on immigration, arguing that to prevent voters drifting to the far-right, the government must end its "laxist" approach.

Setting out his priorities for the second half of his mandate on Monday evening, Macron said that his centrist Republic on the Move party risked being seen as "bourgeois" unless it tackles the issue of immigration.

"By claiming to be humanist we are sometimes too laxist," he told a meeting of his ministers and ruling party representatives, claiming that France's asylum laws were being "misused" by people-smuggling networks and "people who manipulate" the system.

The question for his three-year-old party, which has struggled to establish a presence in small-town and rural France, was "whether we want to be a bourgeois party or not", according to Macron.

"The bourgeois have no problem with that (immigration). They don't come up against it. The working classes live with it. For decades the left didn't want to deal with this problem so the working class migrated to the far-right."

"We're like the three little monkeys, we don't want to see," he said, referring to the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" dictum represented by three monkeys with their hands over their eyes, ears and mouth.

An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll on divisions in French society published on Tuesday showed 63 percent felt there were "too many foreigners in France".

Sixty-six percent also said they felt that immigrants did not try hard enough to integrate.

Source: AFP