“Paris Fails the Migrants”, édito du «New York Times» (18/06/2015)
France’s failure to devise a realistic, humane plan to deal with migrants from Africa and the Middle East and Roma people from Bulgaria and Romania is having devastating consequences. The main victims are the migrants, forced to shelter in squalid temporary encampments. But another casualty may be a sense of unity in the European Union.
On June 8, a week after demolishing a migrant tent camp, the police in Paris used tear gas to clear migrants from a sidewalk where some were camped. On that same day, a 4-year-old Roma child died in a fire in a camp in Lille, one day after another child died in a fire in a Roma camp outside Paris and one day after Unicef France released a report on child poverty highlighting the “unacceptable” conditions in which many migrant children live. African migrants in Paris are, for now, being allowed to camp in a park.
Meanwhile, a group of some 200 migrants from Africa are hunkered down in Ventimiglia, Italy, near the French border saying they will not budge until they are allowed to travel to France and beyond. The migrants are stuck because France clamped down on migrants crossing its border with Italy last Thursday. Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia have also tightened their borders with Italy.
On Monday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve of France said that Italy was obliged to respect European rules stipulating that the first country where migrants arrive must take responsibility for them. Mr. Cazeneuve’s remark is a cynical slap in Italy’s face. More than 50,000 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean from Libya so far this year. Last year, 170,000 reached Italy, and the nation is simply overwhelmed.
The European Commission has proposed a plan to have other European member states take in 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece. The plan will be taken up at a summit meeting June 25-26, and many member states, including France, are resisting.
France must commit adequate resources to deal with growing numbers of migrants, especially children, in accordance with European and international norms. And it should work with Italy and other European Union members to make sure that the June summit meeting produces a coherent plan on migrants.