France promises swift action to let Covid-19 separated couples reunite

France promises swift action to let Covid-19 separated couples reunite
France has, along with other European countries, increased travel restrictions since the pandemic hit the country with full force in March. Photo: AFP
The French government said it would keep its promise to let unmarried couples separated by Covid-19 travel restrictions reunite in France, with the first travel passes due to be issued "by the end of the week."

Over a month since France jubilantly declared that the separated couples would be allowed a free-pass through travel restrictions in place, not a single such pass has been issued.

After weeks of radio silence on the matter despite repeated requests by The Local to clarify when the process will be put into motion, the government has promised to improve the procedure to open up their borders for unmarried couples separated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is a process that was launched in August. It is not satisfactory because it is too slow and has not made it possible to respond to these problems,” French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune told France Inter on Thursday.

By “these problems,” the minister referred to the process of getting pages-long applications treated in French consulates across the world to see if the couples applying for a laissez-passer (free-pass) were in a relationship deemed serious enough to let them through current travel restrictions. 

“I hope that at the end of the week, the beginning of next week, we will have the first passes [ready],” Beaune said.

He reiterated the same promise on Tuesday, after the French radio channel asked for an update on the situation seeing as no passes have yet been issued.

The group #LoveIsNotTourism, which has led an online fight to get countries across the world to drop travel restrictions for separated couples, has urged France to make good on its promises as quickly as possible.

READ ALSO: France's failure to act leaves long-distance lovers 'heartbroken'

They have announced on Twitter that they will organise a protest in Paris on Sunday September 27th to push the government to speed up the process.

“After tears, comes action,” they wrote.

“Political will could easily ease out pain, but [the] French government has had the worst management of the subject so far. Let's advocate harder now.”

 

France, along with the rest of the EU, effectively closed its borders in early March to all but essential travel. While arrivals from some countries are now allowed into France, many like those travelling from the US, India or Brazil are still barred.

Residents of France are allowed to return and travel is allowed for “imperative family reasons” but these don't cover those people in long-distance relationships who simply want to reunite.

Early in August, the French government declared that couples where one person resided in France and the other in a non-EU country would soon be allowed to reunite on French territory.

“This virus does not like love, we do!” France's Secretary of State in charge of tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, tweeted at the time.

Lemoyne said the government was putting in place a process that would allow partners separated due to Covid-19 to reunite despite the EU wide travel ban on a string of countries.

“Starting this week, a request for a pass can be deposited at the nearest consulate,” he wrote.

France only recognises couples as such if they live together, are married or PACSed (pacte civil de solidarité or ‘civil union'). 

Unmarried couples separated for months by the virus have long complained that they are seen as second-class couples due to their lack of official documents proving their relationship's validity.

READ ALSO: The long-distance couples separated by France's Covid-19 travel restrictions

Many have taken to social media to express their frustration, and some accusing France of “lying about the sweetheart pass.”

“257 days. India is closed, and France is lying about the sweetheart pass,” Alish tweeted.

 

Others deplore that countries' travel restrictions have had such negative societal consequences.

 

The EU has asked governments to provide as broad a definition as possible to allow couples to swiftly reunite.

“I want to directly address and support the very committed and vocal #LocaIsEssential campaign,” tweeted Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

“I urge Member State authorities and indeed travel companies to apply as wide a definition of partnerships as possible.”