African asylum-seekers sleeping in the open air in the neighbourhood of La Chapelle in Paris, November 2017. Outdoor encampment of refugees is common in France due to the poor public accommodation provision for asylum-seekers / Photo: Arun Venugopal/PRI

Asylum seekers: how France plans to handle those whose applications have been rejected

Beginning from 2018 France is set to adopt a new migration law, which will include tougher rules for people whose asylum applications have been rejected. The bill is currently being debated in France’s lower house of parliament. Anne-Diandra Louarn/InfoMigrants takes a look at the main points of the new law.

Addressing the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, 8 November, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb estimated the number of migrants without proper documents in France at around 300,000. While the government has vowed to greatly improve its efforts to integrate migrants (thanks to a sizeable budget injection), it is also planning to toughen the rules for people whose asylum applications have been rejected.

No more mass regularizations

On the issue of regularization, Collomb insisted that once the law came into force, each asylum application would be reviewed on a strict “case by case” basis, in order to take into account the “human reality of those who need to have their situation resolved as soon as possible.”

However, he said, “if you ask me if the priority is to have mass regularization, the answer is no.” Collomb also emphasized new measures “to prevent a certain number of economic migrants from coming.”

Next month, the minister is scheduled to visit Niger and other refugee-generating sub-Saharan countries and get them to work toward stemming these flows. Collomb underscored that the “drastic measures” already put into place by Niger have already helped seal the sub-Saharan “migrant highway” that emerged between Agadez and Niger. It’s “no longer being used,” he said.

Reduced financial aid for rejected applicants

The bill, which President Emmanuel Macron wants written into law during the first quarter of 2018, stipulates reducing the financial aid by one month for asylum seekers whose applications have been permanently rejected.

“It’s not coherent” that rejected asylum seekers receive this aid “after a definite decision on their status has been taken,” Collomb said.

Currently, a person whose asylum application has been rejected in France has the right to financial aid for one month after their rejection. Under current rules, a person also receives aid until the point at which the scheduled transfer has begun in accordance with the Dublin regulation. This means that if a migrant’s asylum application is rejected on the 5th of the month, he or she will receive financial aid for almost another two months, even if he or she is leaving.

The amount of the financial aid is calculated individually and is based on a person’s family situation, personal resources and housing situation. The person’s monthly revenues must be inferior to France’s active solidarity income (RSA).

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More transfers

“We don’t transfer enough,” President Macron said on 5 November. The new migration law is also set to crack down on migrants trying to circumvent the Dublin regulation (commonly referred to as “Dubliners”) which stipulates that migrants must be sent back to the European country where they were first registered. In 2016, less than 10 per cent of such migrants were transferred from France.

The French president is mulling the automatic detention of migrants trying to evade these rules. In the future, they will be eligible for arrest from the moment that a transfer request has been filed with the European country where they were first registered. Currently, authorities have to wait to detain a person until a transfer arrest warrant has been issued.

Since the beginning of September, France has a special ambassador whose mission is to make the transfer of “Dubliners” smoother and convince the countries where they are returning to accept them.

In mid-October, Macron also vowed that all “foreigners in irregularized situations” and who commit a crime “of any kind, will be deported.” The president has said he will be “uncompromising on this issue” after two young women were killed at a train station in Marseille by a Tunisian man who had been arrested, and released, in Lyon just two days earlier.

Detention terms will double

Currently. the detention term for a person awaiting deportation is 45 days, but this is expected to be extended to 90 days. A judge will thereafter be able to extend it by another 15 days in cases where the person is feared to “obstruct” his or her transfer.

The aim of such lengthy detentions is to give authorities enough time to make the appropriate arrangements to send the person back to their country of origin, a process which is often deliberately slowed down by the latter.

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