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French PM Lays Out New Migrant Plan, Offers No 'Magic Wand'

Migrants are seen gathered near a reception center for migrants in Paris, France, July 10, 2017.
Migrants are seen gathered near a reception center for migrants in Paris, France, July 10, 2017.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe outlined a plan Wednesday to address the high number of migrants arriving in the country, but conceded he has no “magic wand” to resolve a situation that is larger than France and won't go away any time soon.

The plan calls for speeding up asylum claims, creating more housing for asylum-seekers and other measures to make life easier for people hoping to remain in France. A new law in the making would help enforce expulsions of those deemed to be in the country illegally.

Addressing the carrot and stick approach at a news conference with a group of ranking ministers, Philippe said France has fallen short on both humanity and firmness. He did not assign blame for past missteps to previous governments.

“I introduce [these measures] in all humbleness as I am perfectly aware that the issues at stake today are difficult,” Philippe said. “It they were easy to solve, I have no doubt they would have been solved.”

France has taken in far fewer migrants than Italy and Germany. The government nonetheless has been at times overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals and felt threatened by the anti-immigration rhetoric of politicians on the far right.

In a measure of the problem, Paris has cleared out a single neighborhood 34 times in two years and placed 2,771 migrants in housing on Monday. Hundreds of others have returned to the port city of Calais since a huge makeshift camp on the French approach to the English Channel was cleared in October.

Philippe said housing for asylum-seekers would be increased by 10 percent over two years, creating places for 7,500 more people. But France also would become “more efficient” in expelling those who are unauthorized to be in the country, he said.

Of 91,000 migrants detained for being in France illegally last year, 31,000 were ordered out and fewer than 25,000 left, the prime minister said.

France plans to work diplomatically to help stabilize nations like Libya, from where many migrants set off to reach Europe, and will work more closely with Italy, he said, without elaborating.

In a display of straight talk, the prime minister said he could make no promises that the strategies would succeed.

“I can't give you the ‘magic wand’ story. We can all say that, and it's been used before. But I don't have a magic wand. We have this complicated issue, and I want to try and tackle it seriously,” Philippe said.

The migrant crisis is “high, visible and, everything indicates, will be durable,” he said.

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