France - Syria

France brings back visas for Syrians fleeing civil war


France has reinstated a mandatory visa for Syrians planning to travel to France. Campaign groups have criticised the move, saying the visa makes it impossible for Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war to seek safe haven in France.


Syrians hoping to flee the nearly two-year-long war between opposition groups and Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the safety of French soil will have to think again. The French government has reinstated a mandatory transit visa for Syrians to enter the country.

President François Hollande’s government says it has brought back the formality to avoid leaving people in precarious administrative situations and that Syrians still have the right to seek asylum at French consulates and embassies.

The government has been a high-profile supporter of the Syrian opposition and France was the first European country to recognise it as the representative of the Syrian people. 

But some NGOs say this law means Syrians cannot enter France in the first place, thus making an asylum demand impossible.

The transit visa requirement was eliminated in April 2010.

But it was discreetly brought back on 15 January.

Two French immigrants’ rights groups, Gisti and Anafé, brought their case against the measure to the State Council on Monday, demanding the visa requirement be revoked.

In a statement they accuse the Socialist government of “declaring solidarity with the opposition in Syria but [being] reluctant to extend that solidarity to Syrians who aspire to profit from protection on its own territory”.

A hearing is scheduled for the 11 February.

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