France toughens asylum laws

19th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 19 (AFP) - France's parliament approved changes to the country's asylum laws overnight Tuesday, introducing stricter rules for would-be immigrants and slashing the time taken to process their claims.

PARIS, Nov 19 (AFP) - France's parliament approved changes to the country's asylum laws overnight Tuesday, introducing stricter rules for would-be immigrants and slashing the time taken to process their claims.

The French deputies adopted the immigration reforms without amending a package already approved by the upper house Senate last month.

Under the new rules, France's refugee protection office (OFPRA) will draw up a two-month assessment procedure, a process which currently takes an average of two years.

Three new legal notions will also be introduced.

"Subsidiary protection" will afford residency in France for a year, renewable but with lesser rights than political asylum, for foreigners threatened at home but whose cases are deemed not to be covered under the Geneva Convention.

"Internal asylum" will apply to those it is felt could be protected within the borders of their own country by an international or regional body.

A list of "safe countries of origin" will also be drawn up, including those nations deemed to respect human rights and freedoms. Asylum seekers from these places would not normally be considered to be in danger at home.

France's junior minister for cooperation, Pierre-Andre Wiltzer, hailed the new rules as "fair and comprehensive".

"France is determined to maintain its receptive tradition," but that "we cannot be led by emotion".

OFPRA received some 23,000 applications in 1998. That annual figure had leapt to 52,000 by 2002.

In 2004 the figure was expected to reach 85,000.

French Communist Party (PCF) deputy Andre Gerin attacked the new rules. "Your government has failed in its humanity, It is a government with a hard heart, flagrantly abandoning France's hospitality... your policy is contributing to a machine of exclusion," he argued

The new rules are expected to come into effect in January.

© AFP

Subject: French news







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