France introduces migrant quotas after pressure from far-right

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe pledged to ‘take back control’ of immigration

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks at a news conference on immigration in Paris, Wednesday Oct.6, 2019. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says France needs to "take back control" of migration, as part of a carefully controlled government push to listen to voters' worries over growing immigration that risks playing into the hands of the far-right. (Charles Platiau/Pool via AP)
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France is to impose quotas for migrant workers and restrict medical care for asylum seekers as President Emmanuel Macron faces pressure from right-wing politicians to toughen his immigration policies.

Some migrant camps are also expected to be cleared out as part of 20 new measures announced on Wednesday. Opinion polls show support is growing for far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Rally party, which is strongly opposed to mass and unrestricted immigration.

"We want to take back control of our immigration policy. That means when we say yes it really means yes, and when we say no, it really means no," said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

He explained the new rules were to show that France “is open but is not naïve”.

"I think we have found the right balance between reassuring our citizens and not giving ground to populism,” Mr Philippe added as he unveiled the measures.

The size of the quota, which is for people moving legally to France from outside the European Union for work, has not been announced.

Asylum seekers will also have to wait three months before they can receive non-emergency healthcare, although this will not apply to children. Migrant camps in eastern Paris are to be removed and the government said it planned to process all asylum applications within six months.

Data shows that France received more than 28,000 asylum applications in the second quarter of 2019.

On Tuesday, French labour minister Muriel Penicaud had compared the new system to that in Canada and Australia, saying that “this is about France hiring based on its needs”.

Even Mr Macron, who won two-thirds of the vote in a 2017 presidential run-off against Ms Le Pen, has altered his tone on migration, warning in September that “France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well”.

Members of Mr Macron’s En Marche party and Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party clashed last month over the issue of Muslim women wearing headscarves on school trips.