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French Press Review 18 December 2017


Most of the papers note that today is the International Day of Migrants and use the occasion to discuss this tangled issue.Rather than try to help these people, says Liberation,the state has spent the year turning the screws on them.

First there were the words of Gérard Collomb. In Calais on June 22, the Interior Minister called on NGOs who were helping migrants  to go exercise their talents elsewhere.

After the words came the deeds.

The dismantling of the "jungle" camp in Calais, police harassment of migrants. Destruction of shelters, confiscation of blankets and possessions, the use of tear gas, the lack of any provision for basic human sanitation.

Another concern is that the government wants to send migrants back to seek protection from a country they have already crossed, at the gateway to Europe.

This and attempts to make aid to African nations dependent on their limiting migrant flows will only force migrants to find more dangerous routes and use more ruthless underground smuggling networks, says the paper.

Crisis amid "general indifference"

"In overcrowded camps, without sanitation or heating, we are now approaching humanitarian crisis," says a separate commentary in Liberation.

"It's a drama that does not take place in far-off Africa, but in Europe."

The most shocking thing of all is that it's taking place against a backdrop of what the paper calls "general indifference."

Le Monde goes large on the same issue. The paper runs a double page spread on Niger and the impact on the nation and the local communities who live along migration routes. 

The European Union is pressuring Niger to block these routes and that can be seen clearly in Agadez, the largest city in central Niger, which has become a stepping stone for those trying to reach the Mediterranean coast.

"The wind has turned. Agadez is no longer the crossroads that hundreds of thousands of candidates for the European dream pass through," says the paper. Or, more precisely, it is no longer officially a crossroads.

Harsh policing and a generous budget

The European Union has proclaimed that the migrant flow has stopped in Niger. But the reality is more nuanced, according to Le Monde

In 2016, of the 180,000 migrants who landed on the Italian coast from Libya, three quarters had passed through the Niger, and therefore through Agadez.

Now that number has fallen, due to harsh policing and a generous budget from the EU, but the official narrative is disputed.

Like Liberation, the paper reports that smuggling networks have gone underground and found new roots, buried deep in the desert, and local authorities cannot afford to monitor these areas.

International realities and geopolitical crises

Migration flows, which have increased in recent years in Europe, are the result of international realities, with their humanitarian, geopolitical, economic and ecological crises, says the paper's editorial page.

The year 2017 ends with a massive rise in the demand for asylum and the arrival of newcomers puts extreme tension on state services. 

In a proportion never before known, the mechanisms allocated to housing asylum seekers, led by the State, often with the support of our communities, are completely saturated, despite the steady increase the number of places.

The evidence is there, before our eyes, in our streets, in homes and shelters: there is urgency. A social emergency. 

One that grows more grave now that we are in the depths of Winter, says the paper.