CALAIS, France — President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday came to Calais, the port city at the center of France’s migrant difficulty, to defend his policies as a mix of benevolence and firmness against critics who have accused him of inhumanity.
With France getting a record number of asylum claims — one hundred,000 final year — Mr. Macron has been beneath rising fire, specifically from the left, for betraying France’s values.
His interior minister has been criticized for promoting searches of illegal migrants in emergency shelters and stepping up deportations. Police have been accused of ripping blankets away from freezing migrants.
Even members of Mr. Macron’s personal cultlike political movement, La République en Marche, have expressed uneasiness with their leader for the very first time.
On Tuesday, Mr. Macron fought back. But usually for the French president, he sought a middle ground, doling out favors and brickbats on both sides.
He vowed that Calais, the bedraggled port that is a focal point for migrants hoping to reach England, would in no way once again be a dumping ground for them.
“Under no situations will we permit the Jungle to come back,” he told the officers, referring to the squalid encampment that when housed more than eight,000 migrants close to right here, and that was torn down by Mr. Macron’s predecessor in the fall of 2016.
He chastised charitable organizations for encouraging “these males and women to settle, in an illegal status.”
There are nonetheless some 600 migrants — mainly young Eritreans, Sudanese and Afghans — in and about Calais, camping out in the underbrush and scattering at the strategy of the police. Nevertheless, they are invisible in the struggling town itself, exactly where ahead of knots of two or three had been ever-present.
But Mr. Macron, at times sounding defensive, seemed most at pains to reassure his critics on the left in his speech Tuesday, in a frigid and drafty hangar at a windswept police barracks in Calais.
The president is not used to getting accused of inhumanity, but that has been the tenor of a weekslong barrage in the media here. His face appeared on the cover of this week’s widely read magazine L’Obs encased in barbed wire inside, a host of well-known writers took savage aim at him.
In Le Monde on Tuesday, leading intellectuals, like a one particular-time leading adviser and the head of a leading think tank, accused him of possessing “broken with the humanism you advocated.”
So on Tuesday Mr. Macron’s most pointed words have been for the police officers who listened to him in stony silence, and did not applaud him at the end.
The unspoken message to them: be gentle. It was an unusual admonition in the French context — a head of state chiding national law enforcement, with which a French president typically tries to closely identify.
“These are human beings to whom we have a duty of humanity,” the French president mentioned Tuesday. “You require to be exemplary, and you need to have to respect the dignity of every person,” he stated.
Do not allow people to have “the thought that you are practicing physical violence,” Mr. Macron stated. “If there are failings, they will be sanctioned, proportional to the self-assurance we have in you,” he warned.
A Human Rights Watch report final summer time was severely critical of police therapy of migrants at Calais, pointing to the systematic use of stinging spray and destruction of migrants’ goods. Mr. Macron, with no endorsing the letter of that report Tuesday, appeared to acknowledge its spirit.
His government is in the midst of preparing a new policy, focused on distinguishing between these who seek to establish themselves in France for financial factors — the overwhelming majority, specially among those from Africa — and those fleeing persecution.
He desires to send these in the first category home, and indeed such returns had been up 16 percent final year.
Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of migrants remain in France, dispersed across “welcome centers,” waiting months for their applications to be decided on, or just fleeing from them — some 37 %.
His rightward drift on the concern has been strategic, outflanking the far-appropriate National Front as well as the much more classic appropriate.
The National Front has made illegal immigration its signature issue, and Mr. Macron knows that its constituency in France remains big, if dormant for the moment.
Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, has been much less vital of Mr. Macron than the left has on the subject of migrants. But the president’s warnings to the police Tuesday may possibly give her an opening.
A Franco-British summit on Thursday is particular to take up migrant concerns, as Mr. Macron suggested Tuesday — particularly the thorny a single of unaccompanied minors trying to reach Britain and stuck in Calais.
Pushing back at his critics on the left, Mr. Macron insisted Tuesday that considerable resources had been getting devoted to the hosting of migrants, “a reality behind these figures, a budgetary commitment,” including 20,000 housing units for refugees.
On Tuesday he went a step additional, saying the state would “take on” the feeding of migrants at Calais, extended a sore point for the charitable associations that now carry out the job.
Earlier, Mr. Macron had met with migrants at a reception center in the tiny town of Croisilles, south of Calais. He engaged in an almost tender exchange with a single, a young Sudanese man named Ahmed, as reported by a pool reporter for Agence France-Presse who was permitted to witness the scene.
“Have you created pals here?” the president asked Ahmed, according to the pool reporter.
“It takes a lot of willpower to try to find out French,” Ahmed mentioned.
“We are going to support you,” Mr. Macron mentioned, placing his hand on Ahmed’s shoulder. “And I believe that what you have stated so far speaks to a case requiring asylum,” Mr. Macron said.
At which Ahmed smiled.
Published at Tue, 16 Jan 2018 23:51:59 +0000