Joey Millar & Katie Mansfield, Express, July 28, 2017
Emmanuel Macron is facing a government rebellion and major opposition to his attempts to create migrant “hotspots” in Libya where potential asylum-seekers can be screened by French officials.
The French president hopes the plans will reduce the number of people risking travel across the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe.
But Emmanuel Macron’s plans have provoked outrage with Human Rights Watch and NGOs lashing out at the plans which are facing opposition in his own government.
Mr Macron said he wants to take in genuine asylum fleeing oppression or war and said he believes the system will help reduce economic migrants.
Economic migrants will be told they will not be granted asylum while still in Africa – something he hopes will stop them risking their lives crossing the sea.
Mr Macron said: “No country can take all the economic migrants.”
“The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they’re not all eligible for asylum.”
Officials will talk to migrants and establish which of those have no chance of being granted asylum in Europe.
He said, rather than risk their lives only to eventually be told they have to return to their homelands, this system will speed up the process and save lives.
He also believed his scheme would drastically reduce the power of people traffikers in Northern Africa and the Middle East, as they won’t act as a middle men for migrants trying to get to Europe.
Mr Macron said: “We’ll go to them.”
While the president said he hoped the system would begin sometime “this summer”, the plan is already in jeopardy due to protests within his own party.
Officials within his government are believed to be railing against the proposal due to concerns about security in Libya.
Judith Sunderland, a specialist on migration issues at Human Rights Watch said: “There is a total lack of detail. This has surprised many people, including the European Commission. It’s not clear what Macron has in mind.”
Marine de Haas, European affairs specialist at French NGO Cimade, told FRANCE 24 that “regardless of how Macron spoke about Libya, which was very disturbing, France wants to outsource asylum applications. The idea is to intervene as early as possible to sort the refugees – to choose between friendly asylum seekers and evil economic migrants. As if it was as simple as that.”
And in a blow to the EU he said France would push ahead “with or without Europe.”
Earlier this week, Mr Macron chaired talks between Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and the divided country’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.
At those talks, the two Libyans committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections next spring.
Mr Macron wants France to play a bigger role in coaxing Libya’s factions to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.
Already this year 110,000 have crossed from North Africa to Europe, usually arriving in Italy.
Around 2,300 have died. or are missing presumed dead, while making the dangerous voyage, often in rusting ships or overladen rubber dinghies.
It comes as the migrant crisis continues to provoke uproar in France.
The French government has sent migrants based in Paris and Calais to welcome centres across the country.
But residents of Semeac in the French Pyrenees constructed a barrier around a hotel which was to be used as a shelter claiming the small town will not be able to cope with the number of new arrivals.