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France to reform immigration

France to impose quotas in bid to address immigration concerns

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks at a news conference on immigration in Paris, 6 November 2019.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks at a news conference on immigration in Paris, 6 November 2019. Charles Platiau/Reuters

France plans to impose quotas for migrant workers and deny newly-arrived asylum seekers access to non-urgent healthcare, according to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who unveiled a package of reform measures this Wednesday intended to show voters that the government hears their concerns about immigration.

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

He said France would set immigration quotas for professionals, without elaborating. It’s a measure long sought by French right-wing parties.

"Our will is to make choices in how we welcome [the migrants]: set quantitative goals or quotas, both expressions suit me, for professional immigration," Philippe said.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said adult asylum seekers would have to wait three months before gaining access to non-urgent state healthcare, which they currently have access to once their claims are registered.

And Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said asylum processing would be speeded up, and unofficial migrant camps in northeastern Paris would be cleared by the end of the year.

Philippe underlined the measures were the mark of a "France that is open but is not naïve,” adding that they strike the “right balance between reassuring our citizens and not giving ground to populism".

President Emmanuel Macron has taken a tougher line on immigration, eyeing the 2022 presidential election, where he will be seeking re-election. Polls show he will face a tight race with far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, who has accused Macron of being too soft on immigration.

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