Here's your degree. Bon voyage!

Aida Alami reports on new regulations making it more difficult for foreign students who study in France to remain after graduation: 

They speak French as a mother tongue, pepper cafe conversation with Sartre and Camus and are educated at some of the most elite schools in the country. And yet, a tightening of French immigration rules is forcing many recently graduated foreign students back home to North Africa, where few jobs await, potentially depriving France of productive, highly trained labor.

On May 31, Interior Minister Claude Guéant and Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand of France sent a memo — now called the “May 31 Circular” — to all prefectures in France, demanding a stricter application of the law regarding the status of foreign students applying for work permits and demanding a tightening of the number of permits issued.

“The government has set a goal to adapt to the legally set immigration needs,” the circular reads. “Given the impact of the most severe economic crisis in history on employment, this implies a reduction of the flow.”

As a result, foreign students say, obtaining a work permit after graduation has become a major challenge, and, since June, hundreds of them have returned to North Africa to economies offering little or no employment prospects.

With unemployment around 20 percent in Tunisia and Morocco, it's going to be a challenge for those government to absorb a new influx of highly-educated, underemployed young people. But one could take the optimistic view and argue that Tunisia has never needed its best and brightest at home more than it does right now. 

But as an analyst quoted in the story points out, it's really the France that's losing out here by preventing these graduates from "investing in France and creating wealth, even though they are young, talented graduates and multilingual."

This is, of course, a political issue in the United States as well, where talented foreign graduates of U.S. universities are often forced to return home once their student visas run out. As Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham argued last year while making the case for comprehensive immigration reform, "It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy."

It should be a point of pride for the United States and France that talented students from around the world are flocking to their universities, and a source of embarassment that they seem so poorly equipped to capitalize on that pool of talent. 


Mariela Castro's inauspicious Twitter debut

The role of online social media in undermining the message control of authoritarian regimes is often overhyped and misunderstood. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine Raul Castro's daughter getting into a spirited exchange with Cuba's most prominent dissident writer any other way. 

Mariela Castro is best known for her championing of AIDS education and LGBT rights -- noteworthy stands in a government that hasn't always been exactly progressive on those questions. So she may have thought that Twitter would welcome her with open arms when she joined yesterday. Instead she almost immediately found herself in a spat with blogger and frequent FP contributor Yoani Sanchez. The Washington Post's Elizabeth Flock translates the highlights:


The exchange began after Sanchez welcomed Castro to the "plurality of Twitter" where "no one can shut me up, deny me permission to travel or block entrance".

When Castro didn't answer, Sanchez made reference to Castro's championing of gay rights, writing: "When will we Cubans be able to come out of other closets... Tolerance is total or is it not?"

Castro responded then, saying, hotly: "Your focus of tolerance reproduces the old mechanisms of power. To improve your 'services' you need to study"

Then, after other Twitter users piled on, Castro broke out a brilliant line that I now plan on using against anyone who disagrees with me on the internet:   "Despicable parasites: did you receive the order from your employers to respond to me in unison and with the same predetermined script? Be creative".

Following the exchange, Castro retreated to safer ground, tweeting about her efforts to combat prostitution in Cuba. 

It's worth pointing out that this is entirely a self-inflicted wound. Castro didn't need to respond to Sanchez, and actually just drew more attention to her by responding -- though with almost 176,000 followers, Sanchez doesn't really need the help. Dmitry Medvedev and Hugo Chavez have been on Twitter for months, but are presumably smart enough to know there's little to be gained from engaging with their many critics 140 characters at a time. 

The closest parallel to this is probably Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who got into a heated debate over his human rights record with a British journalist --  a move that probably generated more global media discussion of Rwanda's human rights situation than it had gotten all year.  Sometimes you just can't help yourself I guess.