France politics: Quick View - Government plans comprehensive immigration reform

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
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On January 11th Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, held a meeting with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in helping refugees and asylum-seekers to discuss government plans for immigration reform.


During his presidential campaign in 2017 Emmanuel Macron, the president, pledged that no refugee would be living on the streets by the end of 2017; his failure to deliver on this commitment sparked widespread criticism. The current policy stance is criticised as a denial of humanity by the left and as too lax by the right, with the issue stirring up strong feelings on both sides. Mr Macron is now working on reforms to make refugees feel more welcome, while simultaneously dissuading economic migrants.

The government is considering reforms in three areas: reforming the legal procedures applicable to asylum-seekers; increasing the effectiveness of the fight against illegal immigration flows; and improving the integration of legal immigrants. According to the draft presented by Mr Philippe, asylum-seekers would receive a formal response regarding their application within 90 days (compared with 120 days currently). However, members of civil society criticised the fact that asylum-seekers whose application was rejected would only be able to appeal the decision within 15 days (compared with one month currently), and that these appeals would not take precedence over deportation orders.

With regard to illegal immigration flows, the government has abandoned plans to deport illegal migrants to the country where they first entered the EU. This measure had sparked widespread criticism, as the treatment of refugees in some EU countries is considered harsh by observers. However, the government plans to go ahead with other controversial measures, such as doubling to 90 days the amount of time that a suspected illegal migrant may spend in immigration detention.

Finally, the government plans to step up efforts to attract legal immigrants. The criteria to obtain a "passeport talent", a programme that streamlines procedures for highly skilled migrants, will be broadened. The government also plans to protect migrants who had suffered from domestic violence in their home country, and to streamline visa procedures for migrants seeking paid treatment in French hospitals.

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