Number of asylum seekers hits record high in France
The number of asylum applicants in France increased by 17 percent last year compared to a 16-percent rise in 2016, the French refugee agency chief said on Monday.
Pascal Brice, the director general of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), told French broadcaster CNEWS that such a high number of asylum requests was a first in at least 40 years, having reached a record high of 100,412 requests.
Just over a third of these, nearly 43,000 people, saw their requests accepted in 2017 and have been granted refugee status.
Brice particularly emphasized the sharp rise in the number of requests from Albanian and West African nationals.
Albania tops the list of countries of origin with 7,630 requests, Afghanistan is second with 5,987 requests, followed by Haiti with 4,934, Sudan with 4,486, and Guinea with 3,780 asylum requests.
"[But] it's not a massive influx; we are able to manage the situation in our country," Brice said.
He added that the average waiting time for demands to be proceeded "has fallen to almost three months," and Ofpra "continues its efforts to achieve the goal of two months in 2018" set by French President Emmanuel Macron "in strict compliance with the rights of each applicant."
Macron and his government, preparing a new "asylum and immigration" bill, have been under fire for cracking down on migrants and failing asylum seekers.
After he came to office last May, Macron stressed that France was a land of welcome for refugees, saying he wanted all of them off the streets by the end of 2017.
In June, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 40 percent of asylum seekers and refugees did not have access to housing, and the current 80,000 homes and shelters would be increased by 12,500 in 2018 and 2019.
But as of Jan. 2018, hundreds of refugees are still sleeping rough in Paris and Calais, and complaining about police violence.