IN PICS: Refugees arrive for new life in France

Some 200 refugees from the Middle East arrived in France on Wednesday, where they were welcomed by aid teams and local authorities. They will soon by joined by hundreds more. Here's a selection of images of their arrival.

IN PICS: Refugees arrive for new life in France
The President of the French Red Cross, Jean-Jacques Eledjam greets refugees in Champagne-Sur-Seine. Photo: AFP

French authorities welcomed 200 refugees from Syria and Iraq on Wednesday, the first of around 1,000 who are expected to travel to France from Germany over the next three days.

The images below show some 93 Syrian, Eritrean and Iraqi migrants arriving from Germany in Champagne-sur-Seine, to the south east of Paris, before temporarily settling at the Armade student residence. 

They were met by members of the French Red Cross who will provide food and care before they are relocated.

The president of the French Red Cross Jean-Jacques Eledjam said they would be found lodging around the area within the next 48 hours, whether studio flats or three bedroom apartments.

“It will be relatively comfortable given the difficulties they have encountered,” he said.

“The refugees will also be given support so they can gain refugee status within two to four months.”

(Journalists film some of the ninety-three Syrian, Eritrean and Iraqi migrants coming from Germany. Photo: AFP)

(A room is prepared for the arrival of around 90 refugees. Photo: AFP)

Refugees looked happy and relieved on their arrival with some saying they were tired but happy.

“In Iraq, life is dangerous, so we want to begin a new life here,” one refugee named Oussama told Le Point news site after arriving in Champagne-sur-Seine.

“At first we wanted to go to Belgium, but when we arrived in Germany they told us France was willing to take us, so we came here.”

Over the coming days around 1,000 refugees will be taken in by France in total, a move aimed to relieve some of the pressure on Germany where thousands have arrived from Austria and Hungary in recent days.


(Some of the ninety-three Syrian, Eritrean and Iraqi refugees are seen here waiting before being directed to their rooms. Photo: AFP)

(Refugees queue for refreshments in a tent of the French Red Cross. Photo: AFP)



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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.