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Christophe Castaner. Wikipedia

France tops list of asylum applications in Europe

With 120 900 asylum applications registered in mid-November, France has now overtaken Germany in an historic first.

Published: November 22, 2019, 6:30 am

    Paris

    For the first time since the start of the migration crisis in 2015, France has become the “number one country” for asylum applications in Europe, reported French magazine L’Express. It has overtaken Germany, which is an “anomaly”, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

    “France has become, since 20 October, the number one country for asylum seekers in Europe, even as entry into Europe continues to decline. This is therefore a statistical anomaly, which we must work on,” said the Interior Minister after an interview with his Georgian counterpart Vakhtang Gomelauri.

    Yet Germany had a considerable lead over their French neighbour. At the height of the crisis, France registered “only” 80 075 asylum applications, according to the figures of Ofpra, which grants refugee status in France, while Germany received 890 000, or ten times more.

    Today, 120 900 applications were registered by France in 2019, against 119 900 in Germany. Both countries “are almost tied” Place Beauvau says, although the fact that France exceeds Germany remains “symbolic”. Last year, 184 000 people applied for asylum in Germany, compared to 123 000 in France.

    This reversal is explained by the fact that France welcomes “a additional request”, namely that migrants who “failed elsewhere come for an additional request” in France, says an official at the Ministry of the Interior.

    “This is why we are committed at a European level to a reform of asylum and Schengen,” said the same source. It is to stem this growing demand, which is expected to increase by another 10 to 15 percent.

    In 2019, the government proposed several measures in early November, as part of its immigration plan.

    In the latter, it proposed, in particular, to speed up the processing of asylum applications, to introduce a three-month waiting period for access to basic social security for asylum seekers and to take measures to ensure expulsion after the refusal of the file at Ofpra, without waiting for the process of a possible appeal.

    But while stricter laws are being proposed, the legal system has shown leniency towards transgressors. Thus a French mountain guide was sentenced only to three months’ suspended imprisonment for helping illegal immigrants enter France illegally.

    Pierre Mumber escaped punishment this week for “assistance to the irregular entry” of migrants in the winter of 2018, and the 55-year-old mountain guide was released by the Grenoble Court of Appeal, reported BFMTV.

    At the appeal hearing, at the end of October, the judges watched the images of an Italian television crew that had accompanied Pierre Mumber at the Col de Montgenèvre, in the Hautes-Alpes.

    “There is no evidence to convince us that Pierre Mumber intervened directly to prevent police officers from apprehending foreigners in an irregular situation,” said the judge. Finally, after studying the communication evidence, the Court of Appeal found that “there is no evidence that Pierre Mumber accompanied [the migrants] when they crossed the border.”

    The pro-migrant activist expressed his “relief” at the announcement of the verdict. “It was so inconsistent!” He added: “I am disgusted by the fact that the police allow themselves to provoke this kind of situation […] whereas the helpers are just bringing in humanitarian aid that is not illegal,” he argued.

    The spokesman for a pro-migration organisation All Migrants, Michel Rousseau, hailed “a victory for us”. According to him, these repeated trials lead to “realizing that we are not the only ones to undergo police and judicial repression and this favors rapprochements between social movements confronted with the authoritarian drift of power”.

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