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French Press Review 11 January 2018


The Macron government's proposed law on immigration and political asylum promises to speed up the processing of asylum seekers. Will it work? And why have a group of militant feminists criticised the sisters who, earlier this week, called for a distinction between harmless seducers and sexual predators?

The front page of right-wing daily Le Figaro is dominated by the debate about the Macron government's proposed law on immigration and political asylum.

Already criticised by some groups working with asylum seekers, and apparently causing difficulties for many within the presidential majority, the law proposes to speed up the screening process, meaning that those who qualify for asylum will be more quickly integrated into French society, while those who fail will be more quickly deported.

The critics are being reminded, in what has become the mantra of the Macron administration, that these changes were promised in the presidential programme.

As with labour law and the reform of wealth tax, we're being told "You voted for the man, knowing that these were his plans. So stop whinging."

But the complex and sensitive question of how fraternal France treats those who come knocking on the nation's door is going to be a real test of the solidity of Macron's Republic on the Move party. The president has already told the rank and file that he does not want to hear a single discordant voice, insisting that the party show clear and total solidarity.

Le Figaro's editorial insists that decisions about how France deals with mass immigration must be taken with reason, not emotion.

We must respect human dignity, says the article. But is it respectful to make hundreds of thousands of desperate people believe that they have a future in France? Where is the dignity in the overcrowded shanty-towns without water or toilets where the immigrants wait for jobs, handouts, violence, expulsion?

Emmanuel Macron has already made his policy clear: those who are not in danger must return home. Le Figaro likes that kind of clarity. Ignoring the fact that starvation and political violence both kill people.

The right-wing daily wonders if Macron has the courage of his convictions, noting that the 2018 budget allocates less money to detention centres and expulsion, more to the assistance package which ensures that illegal immigrants get free medical treatment.

We have been promised a law which strikes a balance between efficiency and the humane treatment of refugees, which would be a miracle.

#Metoo critique sparks response

We were talking yesterday about the concerns of some women that, in the wake of the Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, the feminist movement risked being turned into a war zone.

Le Monde published an open letter signed by over 100 actresses, writers and intellectuals calling for a clear distinction between seduction and violence, basically saying that chat-up is a crucial part of the way humans relate to one another and is anything but criminal.

This morning the website of French national television carries another letter, this time signed by 30 militant feminists, saying that the open letter's argument risks making sexual crime seem almost acceptable and is unfair to the victims of such crimes. These writers accuse Le Monde's feminists of wanting to "close the lead shield opened by the Weinstein saga" without any regard for the victims of men in high places.

"Every time we make some progress towards equality," says the French TV letter, "well-meaning souls immediately warn us of the dangers of going too far. Things have already gone too far! Every day, hundreds of thousands of French women are the victims of harrassment. Tens of thousands suffer sexual attacks. Hundreds are raped. Every day."

The 30 signatories are not the only ones to criticise the original Le Monde letter. Senator and former women's rights minister Laurence Rossignol thinks "that the fear of not being able to exist without being looked at and desired by men" has driven some "intelligent women to write with enormous stupidity".

Former ecology minister Ségolène Royal says the fact that someone as well-known as the actress Catherine Deneuve signed the Le Monde letter is a further blow to the victims of sexual violence, already crushed by the fear of speaking out, by the law of silence.