Calls to cut family allowances for foreigners

With the French government busy fleshing out plans to cut family allowances, an opposition UMP deputy has put forward a controversial proposal that would see foreign families lose their right to benefits if they are new to the country.

Calls to cut family allowances for foreigners
File photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Needing to reduce the county’s public spending, the French government is expected to announce measures in the coming weeks that would see family allowances cut.

Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault revealed earlier this week that 15 percent of French families would be affected by the austerity measure.

A report released earlier this month recommended that the government should target the richest families, however an opposition UMP deputy on Thursday proposed his own solution.

Thierry Mariani, vice president of the UMP and deputy for French people living abroad said that instead, immigrants should have their allowances cut.

“It does not shock me that a foreigner who has been here for a long time, who has a right to stay for ten years, should receive family allowances, but it does shock me that someone who has just arrived, who has a one-year visa, can also claim them,” Mariani said.

The deputy, who represents French nationals living in Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania as one of France’s overseas MPs, believes France should follow Britain’s example.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government recently announced plans that would see only those immigrants who have lived in Britain for over a year allowed access to social benefits.

“When you look at the words of Mr. Cameron, you realize that the nature of immigration has changed, and today we need to seriously ask some questions,” Mariani said. “When they only have a one-year visa it means they are not there in a sustainable way.

“It's still amazing that they can benefit immediately from family allowances. It’s a scheme whose ideology we refuse to examine,” Mariani added.

The proposed cuts are needed to try to cut the €2.6 billion debt held by the families section of France’s social security system.

The governing Socialist Party were quick to hit back at Mariani’s proposals, with deputy Gerard Bapt, who is responsible for the government’s social security budget, saying that the UMP’s idea was more akin to that of the far right.

“He is backing the arguments put forward by the National Front,” Bapt said. “They attack the foreigners first and not the rich families pocketing the money. The expected savings from that would be marginal because not all residency permits in France allow access to social benefits.”

A recent report handed to President François Hollande suggests wealthier families should receive decreased allowances on a sliding scale based on their income.

"All families would retain the right to claim family allowances, but the amount would decrease according to their income," the report spells out.

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