France to boost refugee aid, deport economic migrants
France will cut processing time for asylum requests and boost housing for refugees while “systematically” deporting illegal economic migrants, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday.
France, which received 85,000 asylum requests last year, is grappling with a system that President Emmanuel Macron has described as “completely overwhelmed”.
France has come under harsh criticism from charities for failing to provide adequate facilities for refugees, leading to the formation of squalid camps in northern France and around Paris.
An aid worker who took part in a meeting at the interior ministry on the issue last week said he feared a “general hardening of expulsion measures” in the plan announced Wednesday.
“We are not what France should be” in striking a balance between humanitarian concern for refugees and observing a tough policy on handling economic migrants, Philippe said.
Philippe said 40 percent of asylum seekers and refugees do not have access to housing, and that the current 80,000 homes and shelters would be increased by 12,500 in 2018 and 2019.
He said the plan calls for additional resources to allow authorities to reduce processing time for an asylum application from 14 months to six.
Philippe said those who are denied asylum will be “systematically” deported, adding that the legal framework for their detention pending deportation would be “redefined” as part of a draft law to be introduced in September.
He said France would beef up means for integrating refugees such as language teaching, something Macron, elected in May, listed as a priority during his campaign.
Philippe also announced the creation of an inter-ministerial coordinator for integrating refugees into French society — a key demand of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Last Thursday, EU interior ministers pledged to back a plan to help Italy, which has seen some 85,000 migrants stream into the country since the start of the year.