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European Union/migration issues

Published on August 24, 2015
Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche

Paris, August 23, 2015

Q. – In Berlin on Monday, the French President will discuss the migrant crisis with Chancellor Merkel. What more can France and Germany do?

THE MINISTER – We must take across-the-board action, whether it be Franco-British, as in Calais last Thursday, Franco-German or Franco-European. Without of course omitting – and this is crucial – the countries of origin and transit. This crisis is significant; it’s going to last. We must respond with solidarity and firmness, in the knowledge that no country can get through this alone. And never forgetting, either, that we’re not talking about objects, goods, but women, men and children, with their hopes and suffering. Both here and elsewhere, the Franco-German partnership can be a driving force.

Q. – What do you mean?

THE MINISTER – There are migrants who have the right to asylum and who, in the name of solidarity, must be taken in: this means, among other things, better organizing things in the first countries of arrival like Greece and Italy, by means of hot spots – specific places where you can swiftly handle applications and distinguish between who is eligible for asylum and who isn’t. There’s also long-term action to be taken with the departure and transit countries, like Niger. But firmness is also necessary: those migrants who can’t benefit from the right to asylum must return to their countries of origin, and we must also be very tough with the people-smuggling networks, which means an increase in resources. I regret the fact that certain political forces are exploiting this crisis, but it would be wrong morally and practically to close our eyes to what’s happening.

Q. – In practical terms, what can France and Germany do together?

THE MINISTER – The talk is of 800,000 refugees in Germany, many of whom come from the Balkans. That’s significant. Cooperation must be greatly improved. And we must be clear about regulations, in order to speed up procedures while respecting countries’ sovereignty.

Q. – When you mention the forced return of people who have been refused asylum, are you imagining hundreds, thousands of charter flights?

THE MINISTER – Let’s avoid controversial terms: those who can’t benefit from the right to asylum must be clearly aware that they’ll come up against a refusal, with the obligation to return. If we suggest the opposite, we’ll be encouraging an even larger-scale influx. (…)./.

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