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France ‘won’t hesitate’ to restore border controls for migrants

AFP / Stephane De Sakutin | French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gestures as he gives a speech during a debate on the migrant situation at the National Assembly in Paris on September 16, 2015.

France will "not hesitate" to follow Germany in restoring border controls to stem an influx of refugees, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday as he addressed a noticeably empty French parliament ahead of a debate on the migrant crisis.


"We already restored temporary controls in spring (on the Italian border) and we won't hesitate to do it again as the rules of Schengen allow when circumstances require it," Valls told the French parliament.

Buckling under the pressure of the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, Germany announced this week it was reinstating border controls in a blow to the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

Austria and Slovakia quickly followed suit with similar measures and Poland said it was also willing to step up policing of its borders.

Paris reinstated controls on its border with Italy in June as large numbers of migrants arriving by boat in Italy tried to cross into France.

Valls also announced the creation of 900 extra security forces jobs, particularly border police, to fight illegal immigration.

Marc perelman grab migrants valls

The French Socialist government has been under pressure from some on the political right to take a tougher stance towards the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe. But Valls also sought to reaffirm France’s commitment to helping refugees seeking asylum in the country.

“The right to asylum is a fundamental right that is part of our history,” he said.

“It is France's duty to welcome those people who are persecuted for their ideas or exposed to risk through their own integrity. The French government will never call this right into question.”

'Refugees dying on our doorstep'

Valls criticised a number of French mayors, many from the centre-right opposition party Les Républicains, who have in recent weeks voiced their opposition to taking in refugees in their towns, with some saying they would only welcome Christians.

The Prime Minister also rejected Les Républicains leader Nicolas Sarkozy’s suggestion of only temporarily welcoming war refugees, with the goal of sending them back to their country of origin once conflict there ceased.

President François Hollande has said France will take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years and warned that without a united EU policy to share the burden of migrants, the borderless Schengen system will collapse.

Valls said that more than 600 million euros ($677 million) would go towards financing the reception of these refugees by the end of 2017.

"Some tell us 'you must shut everything'. To say that is to ignore the refugees dying on our doorstep. Others say 'open everything'. To say that is to ignore the realities and difficulties faced by French society," said Valls.

Following Valls's address, the French parliament was due to debate the migrant crisis facing Europe, though it was clear by the number of empty seats in the National Assembly that the majority of MPs had opted to stay away.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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