France's government has announced a raft of new measures designed to tackle illegal immigration.
Villepin said the number of illegal immigrants was high but "contained"
The new rules include the introduction of visas with biometric information, as well as an increase in expulsions.
"When it comes to illegal immigration, the rule has to be firmness," interior minister Dominique de Villepin told Le Figaro newspaper.
He also said the EU constitution - to be voted on in a referendum on 29 May - would make immigration control easier.
This was because asylum and immigration issues would be decided by majority vote, rather than requiring unanimity among the 25 EU member states, he said.
Mr De Villepin said there were between 200,000 and 400,000 illegal immigrants in France - the first time such figures have been made public.
The measures will also include:
- Tighter border controls
- An immigration police
- A central government department to curb illegal workers
- An end to the automatic recognition of marriages entered into by French nationals abroad, in a bid to tackle forced marriages and marriages of convenience
- A list of "safe" countries whose nationals will be fast-tracked when applying for asylum.
However, the minister ruled out the possibility that France would follow Spain's recent decision to grant an amnesty to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
"It is out of the question. Previous mass amnesties in 1981 and 1997 were total failures. Each time it created new pressure and new arrivals," he said, according to the AFP news agency.
The proposals were condemned by the French human rights organisation, La Ligue des Droits de l'Homme.
It told the AFP news agency in a statement that the measures "would solve nothing" and "turn foreigners into scapegoats".