Macron plans to bar refugees from accessing medical care
French government promises to 'take back control' of migration policy with three-month healthcare waiting period
The French government is planning to restrict migrants and refugees' access to medical care, as part of an anti-immigration turn by Emmanuel Macron.
Prime minister Edouard Philippe presented a 20-point "immigration plan" to the country's national assembly on Wednesday, echoing Brexiteer rhetoric by telling a press conference: "We want to take back control of our migration policy."
Among the most most controversial of the policies in the plan is a new three-month waiting period or "delai de carence" before asylum seekers can access basic healthcare coverage.
The period restricts access to the universal Puma or "protection universelle maladie" programme that anyone living in France can use if they are not covered by another insurer. Currently, asylum seekers in France can use the system as soon as they have applied for refugee status.
The policy has prompted intense criticism from human rights groups, who accused the government of playing an "electoral game" with refugees' lives and fostering "a climate of anxiety and hostility to foreigners".
Other policies in the plan include clearing migrant camps on the outskirts of Paris before the end of 2019, and quotas for industries that need to recruit skilled migrants.
Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud took another leaf out of the Brexiteer playbook by stating that the system would be "similar to what is done in Canada or Australia".
“This is about France hiring based on its needs," he told broadcaster BFMTV.
Emmanuel Macron is up for re-election in 2022 and faces his strongest organised opposition from Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party, a re-brand of the National Front.
"France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well," he said in September.
But reacting to the latest raft of policies on Wednesday, Cécile Coudriou, president of Amnesty International France said:
"These measures foster a climate of anxiety and hostility to foreigners within our borders, and fuel feelings of rejection in our society.
"Restricting the rights of migrants and refugees is extremely dangerous. In particular, limiting access to care for asylum seekers and irregular migrants presents a public health risk.
"By overlooking a shared diagnosis and a real dialogue with civil society, the government makes migrants and refugees scapegoats for an electoral game.
"Amnesty International calls on the government to finally choose a policy based on the respect for the rights of foreigners and make them welcome in our society."