France to boost housing for migrants as mayor tweets shock images of camp’s child refugees

France to boost housing for migrants as mayor tweets shock images of camp's child refugees
Photo: Help4Refugee Children
France will increase housing for refugees while "systematically" deporting illegal economic migrants, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday as a mayor denounced inhumane conditions for children in a migrant camp by tweeting out shock photos.

France will cut processing time for asylum requests and boost housing for refugees while “systematically” deporting illegal economic migrants, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday.

Unveiling an “action plan” for dealing with tens of thousands of people who arrive in France each year, Philippe said it aimed to “guarantee the right to asylum (and) better handle migratory flows.”

France, which received 85,000 asylum requests last year, is grappling with a system that President Emmanuel Macron has described as “completely overwhelmed”.

France has come under harsh criticism from charities for failing to provide adequate facilities for refugees, leading to the formation of squalid camps in northern France and around Paris.

An aid worker who took part in a meeting at the interior ministry on the issue last week said he feared a “general hardening of expulsion measures” in the plan announced Wednesday.

“We are not what France should be” in striking a balance between humanitarian concern for refugees and observing a tough policy on handling economic migrants, Philippe said.

Philippe's announcements came after the mayor of Grand-Synthe, near the northern port of Dunkirk tweeted photos of the migrant children living in desperate conditions in the refugee camp in his town in a bid to pressure the French president to take action.

Damien Careme posted photos on Twitter, taken by the charity Help4Refugee Children showing children surrounded by mud and rubbish to highlight the terrible conditions of the camp which he said he could no longer tolerate.

Philippe said 40 percent of asylum seekers and refugees do not have access to housing, and that the current 80,000 homes and shelters would be increased by 12,500 in 2018 and 2019.

He said the plan calls for additional resources to allow authorities to reduce processing time for an asylum application from 14 months to six.

Philippe said those who are denied asylum will be “systematically” deported, adding that the legal framework for their detention pending deportation would be “redefined” as part of a draft law to be introduced in September.

“We must make economic migrants understand that it won't be possible to take in all economic migrants,” he said.

He said France would beef up means for integrating refugees such as language teaching, something Macron, elected in May, listed as a priority during his campaign.

Philippe also announced the creation of an inter-ministerial coordinator for integrating refugees into French society — a key demand of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Last Thursday, EU interior ministers pledged to back a plan to help Italy, which has seen some 85,000 migrants stream into the country since the start of the year.