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Hollande facing mounting pressure over Syrian refugees

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-23

French President François Hollande boasted of France’s leadership on the Syrian issue at an October press conference last year. But he has since come under increasing pressure to be more active in providing for Syrian refugees.

“France was the first to say that if we don’t deal with the Syria issue on the political, diplomatic, even military fronts, we’ll have an influx of refugees,” Hollande said. “[A]nd France hasn’t shirked responsibility.”

Leaders of the Green party called on the government Tuesday to open an “emergency facility” for 160 Syrians from Homs, Alep and Latakia who have been camped out for the last several weeks in a square in the working-class Paris-area suburb of Saint-Ouen.

“More than 160 Syrian refugees have been camping out in Saint-Ouen in undignified conditions and have had to rely on the solidarity of associations and locals,” a statement from the party read. “[But] solidarity cannot compensate for deficiencies in the government. [The state] must designate an emergency facility so these people do not have to sleep in the street while waiting for their asylum requests to be reviewed.”

An estimated 2 million Syrians have fled the violence in their home country, most of them (97%, according to Amnesty International) settling in nearby Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq or Turkey, where their number has reached 1 million, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Tuesday.

But many have travelled farther abroad, heading for Europe. Sweden has been the continent’s leader in offering asylum to Syrian refugees, promising them blanket asylum and automatic permanent residency. Germany, for its part, has vowed to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees. France, on the other hand, has offered to accept only 500 Syrians applying for asylum.

Amnesty International released a satirical video in December targeting Hollande and UK Prime Minister David Cameron as the worst culprits in terms of the gap between their “talk” and their “walk”.

The first group of Syrian refugees arrived in Britain in late March, but the British government has not specified the number of individuals they are willing to accept.

Among the refugees in Saint-Ouen – who have not yet applied for asylum – are many women and children, some of them suffering from health problems. On Friday, French association “France Terre d’Asile” (which translates as “France, Land of Asylum”), a non-profit organisation that provides legal and social services to refugees in France, took three pregnant Syrian women from the square to the hospital.

As the number of Syrian refugees continues to grow with no end to the conflict in sight, Hollande will likely continue to face calls from rights groups to welcome more of them on French soil.

 

Date created : 2014-04-22

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