Posts Tagged ‘Macron’

Russia to expel British diplomats soon, foreign minister says

March 15, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said British allegations of Russian’s involvement in the attack were unacceptable. (Reuters)
MOSCOW/LONDON: Russia will soon expel British diplomats in retaliation for Britain’s decision to kick out 23 Russian envoys over a chemical attack on a former Russian double agent, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
In London, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ratcheted up the rhetoric against Russia, accusing it of glorying in the attack on Sergei Skripal, which he described as a way of scaring anyone who stood up to President Vladimir Putin.
Britain says Russia is responsible for the poisoning with a Soviet-era ‘Novichok’ nerve agent of Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33. They were found unconscious on March 4 in the city of Salisbury in southern England and remain critically ill in hospital.
Moscow denies any involvement. The Kremlin said the British position was irresponsible and not backed up by evidence. It said Britain would not have to wait long for Russia’s response.
Lavrov was quoted by the official news agency RIA as saying the accusations were unacceptable and that British diplomats would be expelled.
But in a series of British media interviews early on Thursday, Johnson said the evidence of Russian guilt was “overwhelming” because only Moscow had access to the poison used and a motive for harming Sergei Skripal.
“There is something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’re heard from the Russians that to me betokens their fundamental guilt,” he told the BBC.
“They want to simultaneously deny it and yet at the same time to glory in it.”
Johnson said the attack was a way for Putin to send a message to anyone considering taking a stand against it that ‘You do that, you are going to die’.
A former agent of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to Britain before being arrested in Moscow and jailed in 2006. He was freed as part of a spy swap deal in 2010 and took refuge in Britain.
At home, the British government has been under pressure from lawmakers and media to show it is getting tough on Russia, with some experts saying that despite the rhetoric the response did not go far enough to bother Putin.
Johnson defended the measures announced on Wednesday and suggested that there could be further consequences for wealthy Russians with assets in Britain.
“We will go after the money and actually we are going after the money,” he said, adding that the National Crime Agency and Economic Crimes Unit were investigating a wide range of individuals. He declined to give details, citing legal reasons.
“What people want to see is some of the very rich people … whose wealth can be attributed to their relationship with Vladimir Putin, it may be that the law agencies, that the police will be able to put unexplained wealth orders on them, to bring them to justice for their acts of gross corruption,” he said.
Johnson also said he had been heartened by strong expressions of support from the United States and other allies — although it remains unclear whether there will be a coordinated international response to the Novichok attack.
France, which on Wednesday had said it wanted proof of Russian involvement before deciding whether to take action against Russia, appeared to change its position on Thursday, saying it agreed with the assessment of its NATO ally Britain.
“France agrees with the United Kingdom that there is no other plausible explanation (than Russian involvement) and reiterates its solidarity with its ally,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.
Macron added that he would announce unspecified “measures” in the coming days over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
“I will announce the measures that we are going to take in the coming days,” Macron told reporters during a visit to central France on Thursday. He added that he condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Wednesday that Washington believed Moscow was responsible for the attack, adding it was a crime worthy of UN Security Council action.
Any effective Security Council action seems highly unlikely, however, given that Russia, like Britain and the United States, is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the body.
Russia has repeatedly said Britain was refusing to provide a sample of the nerve agent used in Salisbury.
Johnson said Britain would send a sample of the nerve agent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons for them to independently assess it.

France toughens talk on Turkish Syria operation — Francois Hollande pressures Macron — It is not right to let entire populations die

March 13, 2018


March 13, 2018, at 1:07 p.m.

Under Pressure, France Toughens Talk on Turkish Syria Operation

People ride on trucks with their belongings in north-east Afrin, Syria March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Turkey’s operation against Kurdish militants in the Afrin region was not justified, the strongest language yet from Paris regarding its NATO ally’s intervention in Syria.

The French government has faced growing criticism at home over its response to developments in northern Syria where Turkey launched its operation“Olive Branch” nearly two months ago to sweep Syrian Kurdish YPG militants from the border.

“While concerns over border security are legitimate… at the same time … It must be said that it absolutely does not justify the deep incursion of Turkish troops in the Afrin zone,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers in parliament.

“The situation is critical and serious,” he said, adding that Paris feared the Turkish operation was also weakening the action against Islamic State militants.

France, like the United States, has extended arms and training to a YPG-led militia in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, and also has dozens of special forces based in the region. That has infuriated Turkey, which considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Former president Francois Hollande, who originally gave the green light for French support to the Kurds, on Monday bemoaned incumbent Emmanuel Macron’s Syria policy, in particular his attitude to the Kurds.

“If I supported the Kurds as part of the coalition, it is not to leave them in the situation they are in,” he told Le Monde.“It is not possible to celebrate the liberation of part of Syria and let entire populations die when we know the role they played in getting that result.”

Turkey’s military and rebel allies have encircled Afrin, its military said on Tuesday, a substantial advance in its campaign.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that reports on the war, said an estimated 700,000 people in Afrin and nearby were now encircled.

“The main reason for our determination on this subject is that we have a very old relationship with the Kurds and we recognize the vital role they played in retaking Raqqa,” Le Drian said, referring to Islamic State’s former Syria bastion.

Reporting by John Irish, Editing by William Maclean

Macron: France will strike Syria chemical arms sites if used to kill

March 13, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a press conference in the Indian city of Varanasi on Monday. (AFP)

PARIS: France is prepared to launch targeted strikes against any site in Syria used to deploy chemical attacks that result in the deaths of civilians, President Emmanuel Macron said.

Shortly before the UN was due to discuss Syria, Macron said Moscow, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, had not done enough to permit relief efforts into the opposition-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
Asked about the Syrian conflict at a news conference in India, Macron said France would be ready to strike if it found “irrefutable evidence” chemical weapons had been used to kill.
“The day we have, in particular in tandem with our American partners, irrefutable proof that the red line was crossed — namely the chemical weapons were used to lethal effect — we will do what the Americans themselves did moreover a few months ago; we would put ourselves in position to proceed with targeted strikes,” Macron said.
The French leader has made the threat before but has so far made little headway influencing events in Syria.
“We are cross-matching our own information with that of our allies but to put it very clearly we have an independent capacity to identify targets and launch strikes where needed.”
Macron’s warning came as a Syrian colonel, cited by Russian news agencies, said Syrian military had found a workshop in Eastern Ghouta used to make chemical weapons,.Syria signed a Russian-brokered deal to give up its arsenal of chemical weapons to avert US airstrikes after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds of people in 2013. Last year, the US again accused Damascus of using nerve gas and launched air strikes.
Since then, Washington has repeatedly accused Damascus of using chlorine gas in attacks. Chlorine is far less deadly than nerve agents and possession of it is allowed for civilian purposes, but its use as a weapon is banned.
Damascus and Moscow have been carrying out a fierce bombing campaign and ground assault against Eastern Ghouta enclave since mid-February, despite a UN Security Council resolution calling for a countrywide cease-fire.
“This is a debate we will have in the coming hours at the United Nations, where it will be shown that the concessions on the ground from Russia, but first and foremost the Syrian regime and its Iranian allies, are insufficient,” Macron said.
At the UN on Monday, French Ambassador Francois Delattre urged Russia to halt the fierce offensive in Syria ahead of a Security Council meeting called to take stock of a failing cease-fire.
“Russia can stop the bloodbath” given its influence on the Syrian regime and its participation in the operations, said Delattre


Emmanuel Macron wants France to replace Britain as India’s ‘gateway to Europe’

March 10, 2018

On his first official visit to India, President Macron said he wants France to be India’s foremost partner in Europe. Trade, security and climate change were high on the agenda during talks between Macron and India’s PM.

French President Macron meets Indian PM Modi in New Delhi

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pledged to work together following talks in New Delhi on Saturday.

Macron, who arrived in the Indian capital on Friday, said France and India should be key partners.

“I hope this visit will open a new era for this strategic partnership,” Macron added Saturday.

Read more: France’s Macron seeks closer India ties amid global uncertainty

‘Entry point to Europe’

The French leader expressed his desire to make his country “India’s best partner in Europe,” replacing Britain as India’s “gateway to Europe.”

“Your historical partner in Europe was the United Kingdom, and I want France to become the new partner,” Macron told Indian media.

“The first [objective of my visit] is to seal for the decade to come a strong pact around collective security in the region between our two democracies,” Macron emphasized.

Read more: New France-India military aerospace joint venture

French President Emmanuel Macron talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi listens France and Germany are increasingly worried about China’s ‘agressive’ behavior in the Indian Ocean

Security, trade and climate

India and France are set to sign a deal to increase naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean where China has been flexing its military might. According to Indian media, France could announce plans to let the Indian navy use its bases in the southern Indian Ocean.

“European powers such as France and Germany are increasingly worried about China’s behavior. They would like greater stability and some balance in Asia, and therefore see India as a possible partner in this endeavor,” Rajesh Rajagopan, a New Delhi-based professor of international politics, told DW.

Trade between India and France in 2016-17 touched $10.95 billion (€8.9 billion), with France listed as the ninth largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of over $6 billion (€4.87 billion) from April 2000 to October 2017, according to Indian government figures. The investments span various sectors, including defense, automobiles, aviation and pharmacy.

On Sunday, Modi and Macron will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The ISA was a flagship Indian initiative launched by Modi and former French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.

Read more: Despite Trump climate turmoil, India’s PM Modi reaffirms Paris pact during France visit

Personal rapport

After his arrival in India, Macron also talked about his personal relations with Indian PM Modi.

“I think we have a very good chemistry. Our two great democracies have a historic relationship,” the French president said.

In a tweet on Friday, Modi welcomed Macron to India, saying: “Your visit will add great strength to the strategic partnership between India and France.” Modi also shared his photos with the French president.


View image on Twitter

Welcome to India, President @EmmanuelMacron! Your visit will add great strength to the strategic partnership between India and France. I look forward to our talks tomorrow.

Putin, Macron and Merkel discuss Syria by phone: Kremlin — Syria continues to “Rain Down Hell” on Eastern Ghouta despite UN decision

February 25, 2018

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syrian crisis with his French and German counterparts, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, on Sunday, the Kremlin said.

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FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron meet during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tobias SCHWARZ, Pool

The leaders, who spoke by phone, highlighted the importance of common efforts to implement a ceasefire called by the United Nations, the Kremlin said.


EU-South America trade deal ‘could kill 20,000 French farms’

February 23, 2018


© AFP/File | The deal could see up to 99,000 tonnes of beef from South America’s Mercosur trading bloc exported to Europe every year

PARIS (AFP) – Over 20,000 French farms could go bankrupt if the European Union concludes a major trade deal with four South American countries, France’s biggest farm union warned Friday.Christiane Lambert, head of the National Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Unions, said France risked losing “between 20,000 and 25,000 farms” if the EU signs a deal allowing tens of thousands of tonnes of tariff-free South American beef into the bloc.

On Wednesday, beef farmers across France demonstrated against the deal which could see up to 99,000 tonnes of beef from the Mercosur trading bloc (Brazil — the world’s top exporter of the meat — as well as Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) exported to Europe every year.

Some campaigners have raised concerns about the use of hormones in these countries which lead to artificially high growth rates in cattle — a practice that is widespread in the United States but banned in Europe.

Lambert told BFM television she was worried the EU would agree to waive food security norms in return for access to a market of 260 million South American consumers for EU cars and auto parts, dairy products and other goods and services.

She complained that the use by South American producers of hormones and of meat and bone meal — a type of feed banned in the EU since the BSE or “mad cow” crisis of the 1990s — would allow them to undercut their French counterparts by up to 30 percent.

At a meeting Thursday with farmers, President Emmanuel Macron promised France would not budge on meat safety.

“There will never be beef with hormones in it in France. We shouldn’t play with fear,” he said, adding: “There will be no reduction in our social, environmental or health standards.”

Negotiators from Mercosur and the EU resumed talks on Wednesday after edging closer to a deal during the last round in Brussels.

Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Latin American bloc, said Monday that the two sides were in agreement on “90 percent” of the issues, including beef exports to Europe.

But EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said it was “very open as to whether there will be a successful conclusion at this stage”.

At the end of the previous round, the EU said it was willing to accept tariff-free imports of 99,000 tonnes of South American beef annually, compared to an initial offer of 70,000 tonnes.

That sparked outrage among European farmers who accused Brussels of a sellout.

Macron is expected to face questions on the issue when he visits the annual Paris farm show on Saturday.


EU to double funding for military force in West Africa’s Sahel region

February 23, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is set to double its funding for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region to counter Islamist insurgencies on Friday, EU diplomats said, part of a broader effort to fight militants and people traffickers.

At a donor conference of some 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, military power France hopes to win enough backing to allow a regional force first proposed four years ago to be fully operational later this year.

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“There is a direct European interest in restoring stability to the region,” a senior EU diplomat said. “There is a general awareness now that the future of the European Union is also the future of Africa.”

Fears that violence in the arid zone could fuel already high levels of migration towards Europe and become a springboard for attacks on the West have made military and development aid there a priority for European nations and Washington.

The G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, needs more than 400 million euros ($494 million) to be able to meet the demands of its Western backers, up from the 250 million euros it has now.

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French President Emmanuel Macron observed operations in northern Mali in May 2017 [Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA]

France, which has more than 4,000 troops in the region, hopes to reach at least 300 million on Friday, as the European Union pledges another 50 million euros to take its contribution to 100 million for the force that has struggled to meet expectations while militants have scored military victories in West Africa.

So far, the United States has pledged 60 million euros to support it. Another 100 million euros has been pledged by Saudi Arabia, 30 million from the United Arab Emirates and 40 million on a bilateral basis by EU member states, separate from the EU’s joint effort.

Separately, France is set to pledge 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, an EU diplomat said.


The deaths of two French soldiers this week in Mali and four U.S. soldiers in October in Niger, where most Americans did not know the United States had forces, has highlighted the security threat in the vast scrublands spanning from Mauritania to Chad.

French President Emmanuel Macron will call for more to be done to support a separate EU train-and-advise mission in Mali, a second EU diplomat said, and is seeking some 50 more EU troops after Belgian soldiers ended their tour in the mission.

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Chadian soldiers march a training mission for African militaries

France has been frustrated that it is the only EU member with combat troops on the ground, although others have contributed trainers. By training African forces, Paris sees an eventual exit strategy for what is its biggest foreign deployment, diplomats said.

“There’s a lack of EU training troops that we must fill,” a EU diplomat said.

Macron will also call to redouble efforts to broker peace through talks with Tuareg rebels in the desert north.

Tuaregs and jihadists took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington to the growing threat in the region.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is set to swell to 5,000 men from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that training soldiers was not the only strategy and called for greater efforts to relieve the roots of the conflict in poverty, poor governance and climate hazards.

“When you add more weapons, you add more suffering,” Patrick Youssef, deputy head of the ICRC’s operations for Africa, told Reuters. “That needs to be accompanied with real measures to alleviate the suffering that is the main reason why this war was created.”


Two French soldiers killed in Mali attack

February 21, 2018

File photo for a soldier of France’s Barkhane mission patrols in central Mali, in the border zone with Burkina Faso and Niger as a joint anti-militant force. (AFP)
PARIS: Two French soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Mali, the French president’s office said on Wednesday. Another soldier was injured as a result of the explosion.
France has deployed around 4,000 French troops in the West Africa’s Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane aimed at tackling Islamist militants in the region. (Reuters)
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French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, center right, visit soldiers of Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military operation, in Gao, Northern Mali, May 19, 2017.

French government unveils tougher asylum rules in new bill

February 21, 2018


© Charly Triballeau, AFP | A migrant holds a placard reading ‘Migrant in danger’ during a protest in front of the sub-prefecture in Le Havre, northwestern France, on December 19, 2016.

Video by Julia KIM

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-02-21

Emmanuel Macron’s government will on Wednesday propose toughening France’s immigration and asylum laws amid vocal criticism from human rights groups in a move that will test the unity of his left-and-right majority.

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The bill unveiled on Wednesday will double the time for which undocumented migrants can be detained to 90 days and shorten the deadlines to apply for asylum, from 120 days to 90 days after a migrant’s arrival in France. It will also make the illegal crossing of borders an offence punishable by one year in jail and fines.

The new bill aims to cut the waiting time on asylum applications from 11 months to six, while providing help to those who want to go home.

“Why do we want to reduce to six months? Because for those for whom asylum is granted, it is better to be able to begin integrating into French society as early as possible,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters at the Élysée Palace after Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

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“But for those deported, in six months you haven’t lost your family roots, you haven’t lost contact with your country, and so it is better that the time limit be shorter…,” Collomb continued.

Migrant charities have blasted the bill as repressive, saying the emphasis on quicker processing times may make it more difficult for asylum-seekers to defend their rights. They have, for example, criticised the notion of cutting in half – to 15 days – the timeframe provided to appeal a rejection decision, saying it leaves the would-be appellant little time to secure a lawyer.

Staff at France’s asylum court and the Ofpra refugee protection office are on strike Wednesday over the law unions have blasted as “an unquestionable break with France’s tradition of asylum”.

>> Aiding migrants in France: What are the legal implications?

“We’re asking for it to be withdrawn,” said the Cimade charity, which works with migrants and asylum-seekers.

“We’re not even in favour of fighting for changes to the bill, because the philosophy behind it is just too repressive.”

The government says it wants to be both firm and fair on immigration, and the bill will also make it easier for minors to get asylum and will aim to halve the time it takes for authorities to process any asylum request.

Disquiet in majority ranks

But while Macron’s parliamentary majority, a mix of lawmakers who have their roots both in right-wing and left-wing parties, has so far been largely united, the government’s migration plans have triggered disquiet in its own ranks.

Matthieu Orphelin, a lawmaker from Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party, on Tuesday said increasing the detention time from 45 days to 90 days was problematic, adding that he intended to table amendments to modify the bill.

Another lawmaker from Macron’s party, Sonia Krimi, has accused the government of “playing with people’s fears” with its migration reform. “All foreigners in France are not terrorists, all foreigners do not cheat with social welfare,” she told Collomb in parliament in December.


The government has already had to abandon a controversial proposal to deport people to a third country deemed “safe”.

And a separate law on taking in “Dublin” migrants those whose asylum claims are registered in other EU countries sparked a tense debate in parliament last week, with some among Macron’s own LREM party criticising it.

“We are in danger of normalising locking people up,” said LREM lawmaker Florence Granjus.

The bill might however prove popular with voters. A BVA opinion poll earlier this month showed that 63 percent of French voters consider there are too many immigrants in France.

The number of people filing asylum requests in France hit a record in 2017, topping 100,000, up 17 percent on 2016. About 36 percent of applicants were granted refugee status.

“The bill is completely balanced,” Collomb insisted last month. “It works on two guiding principles: France must welcome refugees, but it cannot welcome all economic migrants.”

The minister has come under fire in recent weeks after he ordered immigration agents to go into homeless shelters to check people’s residency status.

Charities have taken the government to France’s highest administrative court over the policy, which they say breaches people’s right to seek shelter without fear of questions being asked.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)



France to unveil controversial migrant law — immigration checks in homelss shelters? — 100,000 asylum applications last year — criminalises illegal border crossings

February 21, 2018



© AFP/File / by Katy LEE and Claire GALLEN | France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year.
PARIS (AFP) – The French government is set to unveil a tough new immigration bill Wednesday that is proving one of the most divisive of Emmanuel Macron’s young presidency.The legislation, which criminalises illegal border crossings and aims for quicker deportation of those deemed economic migrants, has sparked widespread anger from NGOs who have branded it repressive.

The government says the law balances “efficiency” with “humanity”, offering faster asylum to refugees found to have fled conflict or repression.

But it has opened divisions in the left-right coalition that newcomer Macron set up when he came to power in May, with even some members of his Republic On The Move (LREM) party breaking ranks to criticise it.

“The most vulnerable will be punished,” said Jean-Michel Clement, a lawmaker who joined the centrist LREM after switching from the Socialists.

“It’s not forbidden to put a little humanity into a draft law.”

Some workers at France’s refugee protection office Ofpra were going on strike to protest the bill on Wednesday, branding it “an unequivocal departure from France’s tradition of asylum”.

They join staff at the asylum court who have been on strike for nine days over their working conditions, with immigration lawyers also raising concerns over aspects of the draft law.

The bill will be presented to the cabinet Wednesday before being tabled in parliament in April.

While leftwingers see it as too punitive the right have labelled it too lax.

Macron has come under pressure to toughen his stance after winning power in an election in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen won 34 percent of the vote, capitalising on concerns over immigration.

The infamous “Jungle” migrant in Calais was razed in 2016 but young Africans and South Asians continue to head to the coast hoping to stow away on trucks crossing to Britain, while others are camped out on the streets of Paris.

France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year.

Liberation newspaper noted that while polls showed voters backing tougher laws the relocation of thousands of migrants to towns and villages nationwide in 2016 went off largely without hitch.

“The French say they are worried, wary and want conservative migration policies. But once they get to know refugees they also want them to be welcomed,” the paper wrote in an editorial.

– More French lessons –

NGOs have lashed out in particular at plans to double the time asylum seekers can be held in detention to 90 days and halve the amount of the time they have to appeal if turned down for refugee status.

“We’re asking for it to be withdrawn,” the Cimade migrants’ charity said of the bill.

“We’re not even in favour of fighting for changes to the bill, because the philosophy behind it is just too repressive.”

The government has defended the bill as “balanced” and said it is considering proposals on how to better integrate newcomers, including doubling the number of hours of French lessons they get and allowing asylum seekers to work.

The bill also aims to cut the average waiting time on asylum applications from 11 months to six, although staff at the asylum court have raised concerns that the tighter turnaround on cases will make it more difficult to appeal.

A heated parliamentary debate last week on a separate law on taking in “Dublin” migrants — those whose asylum claims are registered in other EU countries — provided a taste of how the issue has split Macron backers.

The government has already had to abandon a controversial proposal to deport failed asylum-seekers to a third country deemed “safe”.

Plans by Interior Minister Gerard Collomb to carry out immigration checks in homeless shelters have also come under fire in recent weeks.

by Katy LEE and Claire GALLEN