More than 100,000 people requested asylum in France in 2017, a “historic” number and an increase of 17 percent on the year before, according to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA).
In a statement on Monday, OFPRA director Pascal Brice said the figures show that “France is one of the top countries for seeking asylum in Europe” after Germany, which expects to receive just under 200,000 requests for asylum in 2018.
But Brice expressed confidence that the situation was manageable despite France not having seen comparable levels of asylum seekers "for at least 40 years".
"It's not a massive influx, we are able to handle the situation," he told France’s CNEWS channel.
The principal country of origin for asylum seekers is Albania, which France considers a “secure” country so only 6.5 percent of requests are accepted. The overall rate of successful asylum requests has gone down to 36 percent from 38 percent in 2016, a slight decrease that Brice said can be attributed to the rising number of requests from Albania.
Afghanistan is the second most common country of origin, with 5,987 requests in total last year. Of that number, 83 percent were granted refugee status.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of French-speaking and West African nationals seeking asylum, particularly Ivorians, whose numbers have more than doubled (to 3,243) and nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,941).
French President Emmanuel Macron has previously called for a maximum wait time of two months for asylum seekers to have their cases processed. According to OFPRA, the current average wait time is three months.
The NGO Human Rights Watch has denounced police abuse of migrants in Calais, the site of the former migrant camp dubbed “the Jungle”. The organisation says that police “frequently confiscate or destroy migrants’ sleeping bags, clothing and other possessions” in an effort to deter them from staying in the area.
Macron has said that he will go to Calais before January 18 to talk with local politicians about the situation.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
Date created : 2018-01-08