The whole process is being streamlined, including the creation of new offices to deal with requests faster. Asylum applications have risen sharply in France in recent years, from 23,000 in 1998 to 52,000 in 2002. The figure is predicted to reach 85,000 by next year. The changes had already been approved in the upper house of parliament, the Senate, last month.
In future, people applying for asylum will classified into one of three groups:
Subsidiary protection – allowing residency in France for at least a year, for foreigners threatened at home but whose cases are judged not covered under the Geneva Convention
Internal asylum – granted to people judged able to live in their own country protected by an international body
Political asylum – full asylum rights in France.
A list of “safe” countries of origin will also be drawn up, and asylum claims from those countries will normally be rejected. “France is determined to maintain its receptive tradition…(but) we cannot be led by emotion,” said junior minister for co-operation, Pierre-Andre Wiltzer. He said the new rules were “fair and comprehensive”. But critics accused the government of shutting the door to those in need. “Your government has failed in its humanity, It is a government with a hard heart, flagrantly abandoning France’s hospitality… your policy is contributing to a machine of exclusion,” said French communist MP Andre Gerin to BBC.