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France Sees 'Historic' 100,000 Asylum Claims in 2017

France Sees 'Historic' 100,000 Asylum Claims in 2017

Monday, 8 January, 2018 - 13:15
French President Emmanuel Macron. AFP file photo

Asylum claims in France hit a record 100,000 last year, official figures showed Monday, as President Emmanuel Macron's government draws up hotly-debated new legislation on immigration.

"It's a historic level," Pascal Brice, head of refugee protection agency Ofpra, told AFP, though he noted the numbers are just half of those seen in neighboring Germany last year.

"It confirms that France is one of the countries receiving the most asylum claims in Europe," said Brice.

Albanians formed the biggest group of applicants despite their country being considered safe by France, Agence France Presse reported.

Macron's government is preparing to unveil a bill on immigration next month, but his centrist Republique En Marche (Republic On The Move) party are divided on how to tackle the issue.

Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe have vowed to speed up the process for managing asylum requests and offering improved conditions for successful applicants.

But they have also promised a much tougher line on economic migrants that would see an increased number of deportations and tighter controls on people arriving.

In his New Year's message, Macron warned that France "cannot welcome everyone" although he pledged an immigration policy that walked the line between "humanity and efficiency".

Albanian Influx

Albanians made up the biggest group applying for asylum in France last year -- some 7,600 adults, almost all of them set to be sent home because their home country is considered "safe". 

Brice attributed the 66-percent jump in Albanian asylum claims to "economic emigration", an issue he said was worrying authorities in both countries.

Afghans made up the second biggest group last year with nearly 6,000 applications, followed by migrants from Haiti, Guyana and Sudan.

Applications from Syria were down 10 percent to just over 3,000, though almost all of them were granted asylum.

Ofpra also reported a sharp rise in applications from francophone west Africa including Ivory Coast and DR Congo. Brice said they were part of the wave of migrants crossing to Europe from Libya.

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