France to add 10,500 housing places for migrants, says Interior Ministry
France unveiled plans on Wednesday to add 10,500 additional housing spots for migrants as European nations grapple with how to handle a wave of people crossing the Mediterranean.
The government plans 5,000 housing units for people granted asylum in France, 4,000 for asylum seekers and 1,500 emergency slots for illegal immigrants.
France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the government aimed to create “additional housing spots for those thrown into exile by persecution, abuse, imprisonment and execution.”
“France is doing its part,” he insisted, amid a spat with neighboring Italy, which has urged its fellow EU countries to do more to ease the burden.
In seven years, the number of asylum seekers has nearly doubled in France to reach more than 66,000 cases in 2013.
As a result, there is a severe lack of housing facilities and half of all asylum seekers have to fend for themselves, resorting to living in slums, squats or sleeping rough.
Processing these asylum requests takes an average of two years, and legislation proposed in July aimed to shorten the wait to nine months by 2017, giving authorities dealing with the cases more funding and staff.
The managing director of France Terre d’Asile, a group representing asylum
seekers, greeted the news cautiously.
“It is a sweeping plan of a type that has never been put into place until now,” said Pierre Henry.
He added the increase in housing would require close vigilance as the plan will involve a variety of players from around the country.
The announcement comes as Italy has been increasingly applying pressure to other European Union nations to take in their share of the waves of migrants arriving on its shores.
But at a meeting Tuesday in Luxembourg, European interior ministers failed to reach an agreement on carrying out proposals by the European Commission for quotas to redistribute migrants throughout the bloc.
A father gives his son to a Coast Guard officer, second left, as he disembarks from a vessel at the port of Mitylene after being picked up by the Greek Coast Guard near the northeast Greek island of Lesvos on Wednesday, June 17.