02:38 GMT +313 November 2019
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    French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe attends a news conference on immigration at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France, November 6, 2019

    Very 'Fresh' Idea! PM Philippe Urges France to Get Back in Control of Migration Policy

    © REUTERS / CHARLES PLATIAU
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    On Tuesday French Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud announced that the country would introduce migrant quotas next year for the first time, with now Prime Minister Edouard Philippe unveiling the government's new immigration plan.

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that France needed to "take back control" of migration policy, following his presentation of 20 new measures to potentially toughen immigration control, before parliament on Wednesday.

    "We want to take back control of our immigration policy," the prime minister told reporters as he unveiled the package of measures on immigration, and pointing out that government's new approach to immigration would be a "fair balance between rights and obligations".

    The new plan would potentially include toughening the rules around asylum seekers' instant access to healthcare, closer control of migrants' claims to benefits and an introduction of quotas for migrant workers. 

    France Set to Introduce Migrant Quotas 

    On 5 November French Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said that France would introduce the quotas based on the shortages in certain industries that lack qualified candidates, such as information technology and engineering. Some hospitality industries, including the restaurant and hotel segments, are also believed to require workers willing to take low-paying jobs.

    "This is about France hiring based on its needs. It's a new approach, similar to what is done in Canada or Australia", Penicaud told BFMTV. 

    It is not clear so far whether these measures would be more attractive or repulsive to the country's potential immigrants, as currently, French employers have to go through a lengthy and complicated administrative process to hire non-French citizens. Penicaud also did not specify whether the applicant's nationalities would be taken into account according to the new plan.

    French Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019
    © REUTERS / BENOIT TESSIER
    French Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019

    Around 33,000 economic migrants were granted French working visas in 2018 according to AFP, while a record 122,743 asylum requests were received by France, surging by 22% in comparison to 2017. 

    The news comes following President Emmanuel Macron's recent bid to toughen immigration policy, and his calls on EU members to share the burden of asylum seekers. Macron also got into hot water with Bulgarian politicians last week, after the president argued that France was willing to accept migrants from Guinea or the Ivory Coast, rather than "clandestine networks of Bulgarians and Ukrainians". 

    Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking re-election in 2022, is expected to see fierce competition from the nationalist party leader Marine Le Pen who has long criticised the French president for being too "soft" on immigration policy. 

    Countries Strike Back At EU 'Open Border' Stance

    France has been one among many European countries that recently moved to tighten its migration policies, following the unfolding of the European migration crisis in 2015, when many Middle Eastern and North Africa refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea to arrive on the continent. 

    Several countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, refused to support the EU's "open border" policies, both in terms of illegal migration and welcoming economic migrants. 

    In 2018 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to protect his country's borders from illegal migration, with Budapest harshly opposing European Union mandatory migrant relocation quotas, and banning non-governmental organisations from providing aid to undocumented migrants.

    Italy has also adopted a series of measures against illegal migration, including the so-called "Salvini Decree", after the current government assumed office in June 2018. 

    While France initially pledged to follow the EU "solidarity mechanism" for relocating migrants across the bloc, it now seems that Macron's government has become more cautious in its migration stance. 

    Tags:
    Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron, immigration, France
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