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What the papers said 4 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 4

Immigration and asylum; French strikes; and the trade war between China and America.

Centrist daily Le Monde looks at Tuesday night's opening of the parliamentary debate on immigration and asylum in France.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb launched the proceedings by warning those who might feel the proposed text was too harsh. He was, according to Le Monde, speaking not only to many left-wing MPs who have openly criticised the proposed law but also to those in the presidential majority who have already taken a hostile stance to the proposals and have promised to force through important amendments.

Collomb is on record as saying that the failure of some countries to deal with the problem of illegal immigration has led to the rise of far-right movements and has threatened the very idea of the right to asylum.

Yesterday the minister told parliament that some parts of France are collapsing because they are "submerged" by those demanding asylum.

"If we do nothing," Collomb continued, "France will have to accommodate several hundred thousand people every year".

Gérard Collomb has said that he is open to reasonable amendments to the text but will make no concessions on the essential elements.

Members of his own Republic on the Move party have said they think that's an unpromising way to launch a democratic debate. More than 900 amendments have already been proposed.

Complication or simplification?

Right-wing daily Le Figaro notes the same opening of the parliamentary arm-wrestling, reporting the opinion of the Association of Asylum Judges that the proposed regulatiuons will complicate the business of becoming a political refugee in France rather than the promised simplification.

Le Figaro also reports that anti-immigration hardliners are worried that some clauses in the bill are actually too soft.

The proposals surrounding family unification, for example, would allow minors who are granted asylum to bring in not only their parents as under the current law, but their brothers and sisters as well. However, the hardline critics note that young girls can claim asylum on the basis that they risk genital mutilation, thus assuring refugee status in France for their entire family. And, warns an unidentified judge, African families can be very large.

Right-wing deputy Éric Ciotti says those two provisions alone will "open the floodgates". Le Figaro says many would-be immigrants will now see their young daughters as the key to a new future in France, warning that the logic of the situation will not be lost on the people-smugglers either.

As things stand, according to Pierre Henri of the France Terre d'Asile NGO, no more than 300 minors demand refugee status every year.

Unions plan spring of discontent

Left-leaning Libération gives the front-page honours to Tuesday’s rail strike, describing the action which paralysed much of the country as a "success" and saying that what is now needed is a concerted effort by strikers in other sectors - students, civil servants, street cleaners, Air France staff - to bring maximum pressure on the government.

The CGT union has called for an all-out nationwide demonstration on 19 April.

The government says it won't happen, since the various protesting groups are all demanding different things: the students are complaining about the new system of allocation to third-level studies, the railworkers want to maintain traditional advantages, the Air France people want more money, hospital workers want better conditions.

Libé says the only unifying element is a desire to resist market liberalisation. Will that be enough to bring the various forces of discontent together and force the government to give in? Libération admits that there are no clear signs of convergence, yet.

Trump's kick in the teeth for China

Le Monde gives space to the trade war being waged between China and Donald Trump's protectionist United States.

The US leaders has raised the stakes by promising to impose a 25 percent import duty on 1,300 technological products, including televisions, cars and dentures. The market is estimated to be worth 40 billion euros this year.

The Chinese embassy in Washington immediately condemned the announcement, promising a proportional reaction against US goods entering China, if the dispute is not resolved by the World Trade Organisation.

So far the trade war has seen American wine and pork chops hit in response to US tariff increases on Chinese steel and aluminium. The latest US targets, including the dentures, have been chosen to hit Chinese exporters while causing minimum discomfort for American consumers.

Clearly, there will be wailing and gnashing of false teeth on both sides of the Pacific.

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