France to expel refugees if they commit crimes or are flagged for extremism

Asylum status withdrawn from 147 refugees in past three months

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, wearing a protective face mask, attends the questions to the government session before a final vote on controversial climate change bill at the National Assembly in Paris, France, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

France's interior minister said refugees and other migrants could be expelled if they commit crimes that go "against the values of the republic".

Gerald Darmanin, known for his tough line on crime and immigration, made the comments in a newspaper interview published on Friday.

"For the first time, we've asked Ofpra (France's refugee agency) to withdraw asylum protection for anyone found to be going against the values of the republic," he told Le Figaro.

The policy is the latest sign of the new focus on immigration, security and Islamism by the government of President Emmanuel Macron one year before presidential and parliamentary elections.

Political experts expect those issues to shape a contest in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen is Mr Macron's closest rival, according to recent polls.

Mr Darmanin said that in the past three months, 147 refugees had lost their asylum status.

"Our policy is clear: judging foreigners based on what they do, not who they are," he said.
He said that 1,093 foreigners living illegally in France are currently on a watch list maintained by security services, suspected of being a terrorist threat.

A further 4,000 foreigners with residency status are also on the list, of which 25 per cent are Algerian, 20 per cent Moroccan, 15 per cent Tunisian and 12 per cent Russian, he said.

Mr Darmanin said he wanted residency rights withdrawn from foreigners on the extremist list, but he acknowledged the "major difficulty" of deporting people during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Le Pen has long called for foreigners suspected of being security threats to be expelled.

France deported 24,000 people in 2019, the highest number in at least a decade, according to interior ministry data.

In also issued residency papers to around 275,000 foreigners and received 140,000 asylum requests.

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