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France plans to tighten immigration law as asylum claims top 100,000

Date of Publication: 
12 January 2018

President Macron says France cannot welcome people indiscriminately as critics warn planned changes are authoritarian and illiberal

France plans to tighten immigration law as asylum claims top 100,000

12 January 2018

The number of asylum claims made in France last year was a record 100,412, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

According to Radio France International (RFI), Albanians made up the biggest group of asylum seekers in 2017 with 7,600 applications, although almost all of them will be rejected.

Afghans made up the second biggest group, followed by asylum seekers from Haiti, Guyana and Sudan.

RFI added that 2017 also saw a sharp increase in applications from West Africa, including Côte d'ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless people (OFPRA) said were among those crossing to Europe from Libya.

The Associated Press said that around 36 percent of asylum applications were successful, a slight decrease on 2016.

Reuters reported yesterday that President Emmanuel Macron plans to tighten France's immigration law in the wake of the increase in asylum claims, but he faced a backlash from French aid agencies.

Laurent Giovannoni of Secours Catholique (Caritas France) said the new law would lead to the removal of scores of people in dire need or danger, as they would not be classified as war refugees in the strictest sense. Giovannoni said France was introducing an outdated policy that belongs to the past.

According to Reuters, Macron promised to speed up the processing of asylum claims whilst ensuring that rejected asylum seekers are dealt with more firmly.

"Nothing in the policy being pursued by the government calls the right of asylum into question, but asylum does not mean welcoming people indiscriminately," Macron was quoted as saying.

The Economist reported that critics of the planned changes said the new law would be authoritarian and illiberal. New measures include reducing the deadline for lodging an appeal against a refusal of asylum to just 15 days.

The new immigration and asylum bill is due to be unveiled next month, The Economist said.

RFI says migration issues, including the continued presence of hundreds of migrants and refugees in Calais attempting to reach the UK, will be on the agenda when President Macron travels to London for talks with Prime Minister May later this month.