To begin with, once in France, refugees are received at welcome centers for asylum seekers (acronymed CADAs), where they wait to gain the status of political refugees after the completion of regulation procedures. This status allows them to obtain common housing and to apply for jobs in France. However, the current situation highlights a longstanding problem with the welcome centers: their accommodation capacities. At present, the totality of France’s CADAs have a capacity of 25,000 people, already insufficient to hold the 65,000 asylum requests the country receives each year. While looking to solve this problem, the French government has announced that priority will go to Syrian, Iraqi, and Eritrean asylum seekers, citizens of countries considered the most politically unstable at the moment.
This emigration crisis, challenging anew the legitimacy of the Schengen zone and therefore that of the European Union, has given way in France to the rise of the extreme right party, the Front National, led by Marine le Pen. The latter is using the situation to serve his euroscepticism and his will to eventually leave the EU; he demands a France “for the French,” evidently forgetting the word “Fraternity” in the country’s motto. Despite this, numerous associations have sprung into action to facilitate the arrival of refugees in train stations and communities throughout France, showing the world the country’s potential for solidarity and helpfulness.
by Emma P.
In the past months, daily brawls have taken place in the northern city of Calais between migrants and the CRS, the French police specialized in regulating demonstrations. Indeed, a lot of migrants hope to cross the Channel to Britain through the Eurotunnel linking France to the United Kingdom.
Therefore, at first, the French opinion was opposed to welcoming refugees (55% against, 45% in favour). Indeed, France already welcomed a lot of migrants in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. President Hollande, along with his party (the Socialist Party) was then opposed to the quotas suggested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. France’s far-right party, the National Front, was fiercely opposed to welcoming refugees on French soil, fearing that native-born French would become minority in their own country. France’s main right party, the Republicans, hadn’t expressed any opinion in the first week of the crisis.
After young Aylan’s death and the picture that shocked the entire world, however, the French changed their mind, and nearly 60% were in favour of welcoming refugees. President Hollande even agreed with Chancellor Merkel’s quotas, and supported her by putting this suggestion into application. France would welcome 24 000 refugees. They will nevertheless be denied the right to work in France, and will receive subsidies of around 200€ per person. His party, along with this entire left wing, is now largely favourable to welcoming refugees (over 70%). The Republicans are also in favour of welcoming war refugees (mainly Syrians), but on the condition that they will return to Syria as soon as the war is over. Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the Republicans, also accused President Hollande when promising the French that only 24 000 refugees would live on French soil; indeed, as France is a member of the Schengen zone, a migrant welcomed in any other member State (Greece or Austria, for instance) would be free to come and live in France, as welfare policy is more generous in France than in any other European country. The Front National hasn’t changed at all its views on the question, and still refuses to welcome any refugees in France.
Still, most of the French tend to be in favour of Angela Merkel’s quotas. Hundreds even opened their houses or apartments to refugees, accommodating entire refugees’ families among their own family.
by Marin E.
As a guarantor of Human Rights, France decided to take part in the European program concerning the hosting of Syrian refugees. Having administered Syria from 1920 until 1946 under mandate of the League of Nations, France wants to mark its solidarity with the Syrian people.
France has always been a country populated by immigrants, who have brought with them their culture. In the context of the Syrian war, the government has decided to accommodate 24,000 refugees over a period of two years.
France has 275 centers available to host the refugees, but according to some associations the centers cannot handle so many refugees. That is why French president François Hollande has asked mayors to welcome some refugees in their towns, relying on the inhabitants’ solidarity.
Some are very proud to deal with people in need and have done their best to welcome Syrian families. But of course the majority of towns have refused, saying that they already have problems handling homeless people.
The idea of welcoming refugees has divided the country in two. One part of French people is afraid of losing jobs to migrants, given that the unemployment rate is 10%, and fears welcoming potential terrorists or criminals. The other side of the population is pleased to meet Syrians, to enrich French culture and to feel useful. In any case, a wave of solidarity has swept through France, with volunteers teaching refugees how to speak French and offering food and supplies to enhance migrants’ everyday life.
To conclude, France has made an effort to accommodate 24 000 refugees, with the support of the population’s generosity. This is helping France to become more closely knit than before, breaking down barriers, focusing on the necessity to help a country in need, even if everything isn’t perfect.
by Bastien S.