FRENCH company bosses in London have called on France to follow the UK and promote the immigration of qualified professionals to reap the economic benefits.

The Cercle d'Outre-Manche, a group of French business leaders working in the UK and which calls itself a “think-tank promoting the best of both countries”, says that in France immigration is based too much on family contacts whereas in the UK it is biased towards building a skilled workforce.

Founded by former BNP Paribas chief executive officer Pascal Boris and chairman of security and healthcare group International SOS Arnaud Vaissié, the Circle said that while the number of immigrants in the two countries was roughly comparable there was a fundamental difference in their motives for moving – and their economic value.

In France 44% of immigrants arrived for family reasons while just 25% came for professional reasons. In the UK, just 13% of immigrants were there for family reasons and 34% were qualified people looking for work and to build a better life.

The report highlights the UK’s policies saying “Over the past 10 years the UK has chosen to have skilled professional immigration, with the objection of economic and social integration.”

Adding that France welcomes two times fewer skilled immigrants than the UK and three times fewer than Germany, it regrets that the country has “no clear strategy on targeted immigration” and does not value diversity.

The Circle also highlighted the problems created by former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s “carte de séjour compétences et talents” - which failed in its aim of promoting the immigration of skilled people – and former interior minister Claude Guéant’s circular restricting the rights of qualified foreign students to stay in France.

France, as the No3 world destination for foreign students after the US and UK, should “enhance economic and entrepreneurial courses for foreign students” rather than the present dominance of humanities and social sciences.

Mr Vaissié said that businesses had not been sufficiently vocal during the “largely ideological” debate on immigration between supporters of idealistic and naive optimism and those who wanted a repressive policy.