Henry Samuel, The Telegraph, May 11, 2022
Less than six per cent of illegal migrants ordered to leave France actually do so, according to a damning senatorial report calling for a deep overhaul of the country’s “byzantine” immigration system.
The cross-party report led by conservative Republicans senator François-Noel Buffet warned that France’s Kafkesque management of migrants had “reached its limits” and that the entire system should “go back to the drawing board”.
The senatorial commission’s investigations, which took it as far as the Vienna headquarters of the EU’s border force, Frontex, warned of state agents’ “exhaustion and sense of loss of meaning in their profession…notably when a foreigner expelled from France after a complex and long process lasting several weeks comes back a few days after his departure”.
Last year 98,000 foreigners were ordered to leave France but in reality less than six per cent actually did so, said the report.
The issue is crucial to France, which is the EU country that orders by far the highest number of non-EU nationals to leave its territory. In 2020, France’s 108,000 expulsion orders accounted for more than 27 per cent of the EU total, according to Eurostat. Spain was second on 50,000 and Greece third on 36,500.
Mr Buffet wrote: “The low execution rate of forced expulsions from France casts into question the meaning of a judge’s actions as he is required to issue a ruling as fast as possible whereas the prospects of the foreigner being removed from the country are weak.”
A major stumbling block was the refusal of countries of origin to take back their nationals. The Covid crisis had provided them with spurious requests for PCR tests that migrants could refuse, leaving them in limbo.
The other was red tape.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Buffet said that there are currently 12 different ways to seize the courts regarding foreigners’ rights in France. “Many who fail in one attempt, then take another track, and then a third. It never ends,” he said. France’s State Council has proposed to cut the number of procedures to three.
French judges questioned in compiling the report expressed their “discouragement faced with the complexity of these procedural rules”, it went on.
According to Mr Buffet, the rules have been changed 130 times since 2005.
The report also took aim at the so-called Dublin Regulation, whereby an individual should generally apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive in the EU.
The aim is to reduce “asylum tourism” from one member state to another and to prevent abuse of the system by the submission of several applications for asylum by one person.
Among the roughly 100,000 migrants who request asylum in France every year, a third should have been transferred to “the member state responsible for handling their asylum request”, said the report.
In reality, however, only 3,000 – less than a tenth – are expelled, it said.
While the French figure appears low, it is in fact the highest among all countries bound by the regulation, which the UK left on December 31, 2020 after years of complaint that it received far more Dublin asylum seekers from other countries than transfers out.
Only Germany has a similar number of outgoing “transfers” to France but a significantly higher intake from other countries.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Buffet said: “We all agreed that Dublin cannot go on as it is. There must be a total renegotiation.”
Meanwhile, state prefectures are “asphyxiated” by requests. Matters are made worse by an army of lawyers and jurists who don’t hesitate to exploit the loopholes in the system to lucrative ends”, found the report.
Overall last year, administrative courts handled 100,000 cases pertaining to foreigners’ rights out of a total of 240,000 hearings. Legal aid for foreigners costs the French taxpayer €60 million per year.