The Strategist

Will France stop "wild" influx of migrants?

08/07/2017 - 14:37

The Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb told Journal de Dimanche about how the country's leadership intends to respond to external threats.

Jeanne Menjoulet via flickr
Jeanne Menjoulet via flickr
Gérard Collomb’s interview turned out to be a response to a recent speech of French President Emmanuel Macron, who set his administration's goal: "No immigrants on the streets." This desire is not easy to implement, although Mr. Collomb announced 3.5 thousand additional places in reception centers for potential refugees. The number of people wishing to obtain asylum in France is growing. 85,726 requests were filed in 2016 – this number is 7.1% bigger than a year ago. Approximately 69.1% receive a refusal, but not all agree to leave the country after that, for they spent so much effort and money.

It was suggested that the time for consideration of the application for asylum be reduced from eight to six months. This all becomes even more important because immigrants can legally reside in France during consideration of their cases. Their benefits are minimal, living conditions are poor, but many of them are ready to wait not only months, but years. The French bureaucracy is not fast even in more understandable cases. This particular case proposes to study the situation of people who often come without passports or with false documents, and speed of the consideration instils doubts. In addition, these figures reflect only registered immigrants. The number of so-called undocumented (sans-papier) in France reflects only number of requests for medical care. The data collected two years ago already indicated 300 thousand people.

By 2019, the number of places for them is going to increase to 12 thousand. It is obvious, however, that this will not be enough. At the same time, refugees from the hot spots on the African continent are mixed with immigrants from the countries of continental Europe. According to Gérard Collomb, about 20% of asylum seekers in the reception centers are now Albanians. It took negotiations at the level of the Prime Minister of Albania to make it difficult for immigrants to enter France without visas.

Mr. Collomb says: "Our policy is to combine efficiency and generosity. We accept all who flee from the war and persecutions, but distinguish refugees from those who migrate for other reasons, especially economic ones." However, it is difficult to differentiate between them. Having got to the French territory, the refugees are not going to follow the French laws. The report of the Court of Account prepared in the presidency of Francois Hollande said that "despite the order to leave French territory, only 1% leaves it" and such a policy "became the main reason for the influx of illegal immigrants to France."

Accordingly, Emmanuel Macron proposed an idea: "Create hot spots in Libya to ensure the preliminary consideration of applications and not allow people to cross the Mediterranean at risk of life." He added that he intends to do this immediately - "together with the rest of Europe or without it." Places for these centers will probably be located in the south of Libya, the northeast of the Niger and the north of Chad. It is interesting that this decision was offered by one of the opponents of Mr. Macron, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, during the pre-election campaign.

Mr. Macron cannot directly follow the advice of the Righties. Republican and tolerant France, may regard this as an attack on the human rights of immigrants, so Gérard Collomb partly motivates this decision with the fact that, tired of the presence of immigrants, the French will stop helping those who really need support. "If we do not distinguish between the right to asylum and other motives for immigration, the very right to asylum will be called into question," the Minister is sure.

However, despite Mr. Collomb’s statements, establishment of reception centers for refugees in Africa remains questionable. The situation in Libya is still far from stability, and it is unlikely that in the near future there will be a safe territory for refugees. In an interview with Le Figaro in 2016, then Minister of Defense and now French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke about difficulties faced by the European program Sophia. The program envisaged creation of a mobile fleet capable of intercepting immigrant carriers from the Libyan coast of the court. The inability to act in territorial waters without Libya's permission blocked its development.

Then, Mr. Le Drian, being the head of the army, was forced to deal with internal affairs, patrolling the whole of France in the Sentinelle operation. Now, as Foreign Minister, he again must deal with the problems of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, pushing immigration as far as possible from the national border together with Mr. Collomb. The French security problems can now be solved only in connection with the problems of African security. This, in turn, means that the solution depends not only on the Minister of the Interior and not only on the President.