France needs to “take back control” of how it deals with immigration, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday as the government announced new measures to grapple with the flux of migrants — a top theme of the far right.
“The overall sense of our action is sovereignty,” Philippe said in a speech, echoing a term used by the far right. “We have to take back control of our migration policy.”
The new measures include what amounts to soft quotas for economic migrants — fixing the numbers of immigrants according to job needs in various professions.
“We’ll set job by job quantifiable goals,” Philippe said Wednesday night in an interview on BFMTV, adding that numbers could change according to circumstances. The goal, he said, is to have access to legal immigrants “when France needs it.”
He and others in the government described the new approach as “coherent and balanced.”
The centrist government’s shift to the right has provoked ire from the left, as President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of cynically trying to fend off the appeal of the far right ahead of 2020’s municipal elections.
The elections next year will help parties lay the groundwork for the 2022 presidential vote. It is widely assumed that Macron will face off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whom he defeated in the presidential runoff in 2017.
Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration National Rally party, dismissed the measures, saying they were an inadequate response. Speaking on Europe 1 radio Wednesday, she said France must be made less “attractive” by, for instance, ending all free health care for migrants and treating asylum demands within countries of origin.
Nicolas Dupoint-Aignan of the far-right party Stand Up France called the measures “limited.”
“The French will quickly understand that this is communication,” he said.
Government after government has passed new immigration laws, and Macron was behind a tough law in 2018, when he vowed to ensure that all migrants are removed from French streets by year’s end.
That never happened and migrant encampments have become increasingly visible in the capital. Police were to clear several thousand people early Thursday from a northern Paris neighborhood where migrants have repeatedly been removed. They will be taken to shelters.
The prime minister said that this time, the government will follow through on its decisions.
“When we say ‘yes,’ it is really ‘yes. When we say ‘no,’ it is really no,” he said.