French President Emmanuel Macron Unveils New Immigration Bill Amid Calls For Protests

Business | February 22, 2018, Thursday // 10:21
Bulgaria: French President Emmanuel Macron Unveils New Immigration Bill Amid Calls For Protests facebook

French President Emmanuel Macron's government on Wednesday presented a bill to enforce tougher immigration rules, decried by human rights organizations as repressive toward asylum-seekers.

The bill, presented at a Cabinet meeting, aims at accelerating the expulsion of people who don't qualify for asylum. It also wants to provide better conditions for those allowed to stay in the country, such as offering more French classes and job training.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb said the plan is "balanced" and "aligned with European procedures."

"If you don't control the migratory flux, you can't offer a destiny" for the nation's youth, he said on BFM TV. "I don't want the European dream to transform tomorrow into a nightmare."

The plan will reduce the consideration period for an application for asylum to a maximum of six months, down from about one year including appeal.

Human rights activists say the quicker process will make it more difficult for asylum-seekers to defend their rights. Collomb says it is more humane because applicants learn their fate before making roots in a country where some ultimately cannot remain.

The plan would also allow authorities to hold migrants in France illegally in detention centers for up to 90 days instead of the current 45, in order to organize their deportation.

Under the bill, people illegally crossing borders of the EU travel-free zone will be fined 3,750 euros (,600)

Some organizations helping migrants, including the French Human Rights League, held street protests in Paris Wednesday to denounce "governmental policies that infringe on migrants' freedoms."

Some public agents in charge of asylum procedures were on strike.

The bill, which goes to parliament in April, "is packaged to better expel," said the president of Doctors of the World, Francoise Sivignon.

"What we contest is the spirit of the law," she said on BFM TV.

Cyrielle Taezin, an employee at the national court of asylum, said migrants won't have enough time to prepare their request. "They have experienced trauma. They need psychological checks. They need time to express what they've gone through."

Alain Esmery, an activist with the Human Rights League, noted that Macron called last month for humanity and firmness toward migrants. "The interior minister must be hard of hearing because he has heard 'firmness, firmness,'" Esmery said.

Official figures show that more than 100,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2017, up 17 percent from the year before.

The largest number of asylum requests came from people from Albania, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan.

About 36 percent of applicants were granted refugee status./ ABC News

Emmanuel Macron's government released a proposal Wednesday for tighter immigration and asylum policies, which has already been criticized by members of the French president's own party. The plan will reduce the consideration period for an application for asylum to a maximum of six months, down from about one year including appeal. The government says it wants to be both firm and fair on immigration. The draft law aims to make it easier for minors to take refuge and halve the time it takes for authorities to consider asylum applications. Interior minister Gerard Collomb said last month the future law aims to put France on par with its European neighbours since the country's existing rules are "much more favourable" than those of other nations. "If we don't take this into account, we won't be able, tomorrow, to guarantee the right to asylum in France". Sonia Krimi, also from Macron's party, said the government was "playing with people's fears". The bill will be presented to the cabinet Wednesday before being tabled in parliament in April. Amnesty International said it would press lawmakers to amend almost every aspect of the proposal. Macron is accustomed to glowing worldwide tributes as a breath of fresh air since his election in May previous year on promises of a break with government framed by left-versus-right politics. Plans by Collomb to carry out immigration checks in homeless shelters have also come under fire in recent weeks. Some workers at France's refugee protection office Ofpra went on strike in protest on Wednesday, branding the bill "an unequivocal departure from France's tradition of asylum". "We're asking for it to be withdrawn", the Cimade migrants' charity said of the bill. However, planned measures may be popular among voters. The Daily Telegraph says Macron is under pressure to act, with polls showing that the majority of French people think there are too many immigrants in the country. The country received a record 100,000 asylum applications a year ago and offered refugee status to around 30,000 people, official figures show. The government has defended the bill as "balanced" and said it is considering proposals on how to better integrate newcomers, including doubling the number of hours of French lessons they get and allowing asylum seekers to work. Newburgh Gazette

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Tags: asylum seekers, immigrants, migrants, refugees, bill, protests, Emmanuel Macron, France

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