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IMMIGRATION

French police clear 450 migrants from camp in Nantes

French police on Monday cleared some 450 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants from a park in the western city of Nantes where they had been camping for more than a month.

French police clear 450 migrants from camp in Nantes
Migrants and refugees are evacuated from their camp by French CRS riot police at Daviais square in Nantes, western France, on July 23, 2018. Photo: AFP
Regional authorities said 455 people were cleared in the operation, ordered over the “worrying” sanitary situation at the encampment, where rats had been 
spotted and where some migrants had caught scabies.
 
Nantes, a riverside city in Brittany home to 300,000 people, has seen asylum applications jump 28 percent in a year, bucking a trend among most other big French regional cities.
   
The migrants evicted from the city-centre camp were sent to a public hall where officials were examining their cases.
 
Photo: AFP
   
Regional authorities said they would shelter “the most vulnerable people” and asylum seekers “as much as possible”, but warned that their facilities were “saturated”.
 
Officials had said last week that they had found only 100 spaces in emergency shelters throughout the region.
   
“It means at least 300 people are going to sleep in the street tonight, without tents,” said Francois Prochasson, a member of a local group which helps migrants.
   
“They're just going to go somewhere else, to another park, and nothing will have been fixed,” he said.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Regional authorities said migrants who “cannot claim asylum or legal residency, or who have claimed asylum in another European Union member state, will be asked to leave the country”.
 
President Emmanuel Macron's government is pushing through parliament a tough new immigration law which would speed up the asylum process and accelerate deportations.
   
France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, though the overall numbers entering Europe via dangerous Mediterranean crossings have 
fallen sharply from their peak in 2015.

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POLITICS

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.

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