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France looks to fast-track asylum applications


Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-10-24

France’s tough-talking Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that the asylum process needs to be speeded up to stop applicants becoming, “too used to being in France.”

France’s tough-talking Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that he planned to halve the time it takes to process asylum applications.

His announcement comes a month before a parliamentary report on asylum reform is due to be published.

Applications in France can take up to 18 months – by which time asylum seekers get “too used to being in France and lose contact with their home countries”, according to one of the report’s authors.

Valls more popular than Hollande

The French have much more confidence in Interior Minister Manuel Valls than they do in President François Hollande, according to a poll published Thursday.

Four fifths of French voters believe Hollande will not win the next presidential election in 2017, the Harris Interactive poll for French daily Le Figaro revealed.

In contrast, 54 percent of those surveyed said they believed Valls would beat a right-wing candidate in the 2017 presidential election. Only 16 percent said Hollande could achieve that.

Valls said on Wednesday the period was "far too long" and should be shortened to six months with nine months set as an absolute maximum.

His announcement follows the much-publicised expulsion of a 15–year-old Roma (Gypsy) girl and her family to Kosovo, a move that Valls defended as legitimate and lawful.

The minister also sparked controversy last month when he said Roma migrants from Eastern Europe should be kicked out of France, but polls suggest that three in four voters agree with him.

Right to citizenship?

On Wednesday the opposition centre-right UMP party weighed in on the immigration debate, saying France’s cherished “droit du sol” (right of soil), which gives children born in France of foreign parents automatic citizenship when they turn 18, should be reviewed.

“If one is born of non-French parents living illegally in France, that family should neither assume that they can stay in France nor that the child has the right to citizenship,” the party’s leader Jean-François Copé said.

“The same applies for children born to foreign parents who are here legally. They should not expect automatic citizenship. It should and must be applied for,” Copé added.

France’s debate on immigration comes as the far-right National Front (FN), which wants to slash the number of migrants and asylum-seekers allowed to settle in France, gains political traction ahead of local elections due in March 2014.

Revoking the “droit du sol” is a key FN policy, and on Wednesday the anti-Europe and anti-immigration party mocked Copé for a “total lack of sincerity” amid media accusations that the UMP was desperately hunting for voters in “FN territory”.

Date created : 2013-10-24


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