France, Fatherland of Human Rights Vs. Migrants’ Rights

France, Fatherland of Human Rights Vs. Migrants’ Rights
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France, Fatherland of Human Rights Vs. Migrants’ Rights

French President baton and carrot immigration policy is between repressive deportation and limited selective immigration.

By Abdennour Toumi

President Macron is dictating conspicuously to his Interior Minister to enforce zero tolerance towards illegal immigrants, introducing a new bill on asylum and immigration to be presented to his cabinet next month and voted on in the Parliament in April. A bill that humanitarian and migrants’ association groups advocate and the left elite are calling shameful and repressive. 

Last week, Premier Edouard Philippe met with local NGOs and INGOs to discuss the bill’s content, which has already created polemic about the delay of the asylum applications and instruction, and the extension of the migrants’ retention regarding the first application.

France is a hospitable country and always has been throughout its modern history, according to Mediapart Director Mr. Edwy Plenel in a recent meeting with the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris. “France is the United States of Europe, it is a welcoming country, there are immigrants from the Maghreb, Africa, south Asia, across Europe and even from the U.S.,” Mr. Plenel said.

The Elysee Palace in France. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

The Elysee Palace in France. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

President Macron is walking on water politically, his popularity in public opinion is comfortable. After imploding the Socialist party and dismantling the conventional right party, he is governing at large between two radical parties that won’t represent any direct threat to his immigration policy nor any other public policy. To the contrary, the extremist far-right party, the FN, shouldn’t be happier with the President’s bill, as well as the new LR party leader Mr. Wauquiez.

On the other hand, the leftist party la France insoumise and the editorialists of the leftist papers and magazines are saying the President’s new immigration and migrants policy would tarnish France’s humanist and humanitarian image and virtually its values.

The President, however, reiterated to reduce the processing time of applications to six months, restating his distinction between refugees and “economic” migrants, a phrase used by his mentor Michel Rocard. Further, President Macron insisted to promote integration by migrants starting to learn French.

Whereas his baton and carrot immigration policy is between repressive deportation and limited selective immigration.

While Interior Minister Collomb argues these new measures are to help improve the deportation process, making reference to the German model, where the number of migrants is double that in France. “The French model is closer to the German model, we have common challenges, let’s get more efficient…” he said.

Yet the President’s bill and the Interior Minister’s administrative circular regarding the migrants are strongly criticized by the NGOs and INGOs like MSF. On the problematic issue of illegal immigration France though is still behind, despite its wealth. This is because of the politicization of the thorny question that has been going on for three decades. 

Syrian refugee camp in Turkey. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

Syrian refugee camp in Turkey. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

French governments (left and right alike) have always been looking at the issue exclusively as a legal and circumstantial one, and not as a serious public policy, to some extent a societal one — letting politics and ideology influence the decision; meanwhile the politicians in charge use the immigration and the migrants as a selling point at any political season to score.

Lately the question has gone beyond economic reasons, and extends to national security challenges, a fair concern to worry about. Last month Interior Minister Collomb signed a tough circular giving the national police permission to control the migrants at the Community Centers run by local NGOs, which has created a huge sense of fear among the migrants.

Unlike in Turkey, a country that is doing a great job, according to former UNHCR Officer, the current U.N. General Secretary Premier Gutierres. The refugees have passed 3 million in number, making Turkey the country hosting the highest number of refugees in the world; about 94% of Syrian refugees remain outside of camp (urban refugees).

With ECHO, for instance, the E.U Aid has contracted 45 humanitarian projects with 19 humanitarian organizations, which are working in close cooperation with Turkish partner organizations to provide support to the most vulnerable refugees, even though the so-called refugees are not legally refugees, but are still considered as guests by the Turkish government; nonetheless, the government is offering protection and aid.

According to the January ECHO report, over 3.7 million registered refugees live in Turkey; they include Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, and Somalis among others. Out of these, almost 230,000 people are hosted in 21 camps run by the Turkish authorities in cooperation with the UNHCR, where refugees have access to shelter, health, education, food and social activities. Under AFAD’s watchful eye this governmental organization deals with disaster and crisis management like FEMA in the U.S. 

In France such governmental organizations don’t exist, simply from the administrative point of view like OFPRA (French Office of Refugees and Stateless Protection).

According to OFPRA the number of asylum applicants has risen in 2017 to 100,424, 17% more in comparison with 2016; applicants are mainly from Albania (7630), Afghanistan (5987), Haiti (4934), Sudan (4486), Guinea (3780) and Syria (3249). The office has noted in 2017 a progression of applicants from West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea; only 43,000 applicants have granted asylum and subsidiary protection.

The President’s bill might score a few political points to marginalize further more the far-right and the new-right from the debate, but in the long run these measures will make France look neither like the Fatherland of Human Rights, nor a Promised Land to the immigrants of color.

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Abdennour Toumi
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Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi:
- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.

EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.

Email im at: nourhty@gmail.com
Abdennour Toumi
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