U.S. Markets close in 2 hrs 21 mins

France could introduce immigration quotas, says interior minister

David Chazan
French Interior minister Christophe Castaner has raised the possibility of introducing migration quotas - AFP

France’s interior minister has raised the possibility of introducing immigration quotas after President Emmanuel Macron said migration would be a central issue in the next presidential election.

Christophe Castaner, one of Mr Macron’s most controversial ministers because of his tough stance on policing “yellow vest” protests, ruled out quotas for refugees granted asylum. But he said they might apply to other migrants.

In an interview published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Mr Castaner said: “In respect of asylum, quotas are contrary to our international commitments and my personal ethics.

“Any request for asylum must be considered, which does not mean accepted. But the question of quotas for other forms of legal immigration may be posed.”

This comes a few days after Edouard Philippe, the conservative prime minister, suggested holding an annual debate on migration and questioned why the number of asylum-seekers “continued to rise by about 22 per cent” in France last year despite a 10 per cent fall across the European Union.

Mr Macron believes current migration laws are insufficient, according to aides. “We must be very vigilant on immigration,” the president told senior figures in his party at a dinner last week. “It will be the subject of 2022 [when presidential and parliamentary elections are due].”

The president himself mooted the idea of quotas in a letter to the French public at the height of the “yellow vest” crisis in January.

Senior figures such as Gérard Darmanin, his Right-wing budget minister, “believe immigration explains voting patterns across France and is the main reason for the popularity of the National Rally [Marine Le Pen’s party],” a presidential adviser said.

The hard-Right party came first in the recent European elections, narrowly beating Mr Macron’s LREM.

The National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, is targeting provincial towns in its campaign for next year’s local council elections.

Ms Le Pen hopes to tap into discontent over social inequality and immigration that exploded in the “yellow vest” protests. She is focussing on the “left-behinds” in smaller towns and rural areas, knowing that her party is unlikely to win control of larger towns or cities.