• France's news in English

New report blasts France over asylum failings

Oliver Gee · 17 Feb 2015, 10:53

Published: 17 Feb 2015 10:53 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
The deficiencies of France's asylum policy were laid bare on Tuesday by the Council of Europe, an independent body which aims to improve cooperation between European countries.
The Council's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks presented the report at a press conference in Paris, with France Info able to get a preview of his findings that were severely critical of France.
Muiznieks took particular aim at France's slow treatment of asylum applications and its failure to resolve the crisis in the northern port of Calais, where thousands are living in makeshift camps or in forests.
The report scolded France for the migrants' poor living conditions and urged measures to be taken to protect them from violence, which has regularly flared up between migrants.
In early January, around 200 migrants brawled as tension mounted after the holiday season saw too few trucks crossing the channel.  
Muiznieks' findings were based on interviews with charities working in Calais and in the area of asylum, one of which is La Cimade.
Jean-Claude Mas, secretary general of La Cimade, told The Local on Tuesday that France desperately needed to act because asylum seekers are living in "absolute poverty".
"The report highlights weaknesses that we have been stressing for a long time. Politicians need to have the courage to give protection to those refugees who are arriving at our gates from war-torn countries," he said.
Mas says France is too slow at dealing with applications from asylum seekers and doesn't do enough to stop them living in squalid conditions while they wait to find out if they will be granted protection.
Tuesday's report from the Council of Europe also pointed out that there were far too many unaccompanied minors living in France, estimating as many as 12,000. These children mostly do not benefit from health care or schooling, and some of them have even ended up in detention with adults.
The Council also rapped France for not taking its share of Syrian refugees, urging the country to maintain its commitment of taking in at least 500 of the 2 million who have fled. 
Authorities in France have often been accused of not wanting to improve the conditions for asylum seekers fearing that it would simply attract more refugees.
But La Cimade's Mas says those seeking asylum would come anyway.
"They are fleeing countries like Syria and Iraq. Who would want to live there at the moment? They come to France because their countries are at war," he said.
"And it's not true to suggest France is overrun by migrants. If you look at Italy they accept a lot more refugees," he said.
'The UK needs to take on its responsibility'
A reform to improve the country's system of asylum is currently going through the French parliament, which if passed should help bring down the time it takes to process applications.
France's interior minister announced last year that a day centre for migrants would be opened in Calais, just weeks after he appeared to dismiss the idea. Campaigners blasted the move as a half measure.
But when it comes to resolving the crisis in Calais, Mas says the UK must take on its responsibility.
Story continues below…
"These people want to go to the UK, so it's logical that Britain deals with their demands for asylum on British soil," Mas said.
Since 2003 the official UK border has been in France, in an attempt to stop illegal migrants reaching Britain to claim asylum. 
"The UK needs to change its policy. The UK government is hiding behind public opinion but what about our European values, that's what their policy should be based on.
"These people are dying, they are fleeing war. They need protection."
It's an argument regularly put forward by French officials, including the mayor of Calais, who threatened to close Calais to British ferries last year unless London did more to help.

"I think the border should be on British territory because it's up to you to decide the migrants you want to let in or not," the mayor from the opposition centre-right UMP party told British lawmakers.

(A migrant brushes his teeth at a Calais squat. Photo: Joshua Melvin/The Local)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President Fran├žois Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available