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France: new integration measures entered into force on March 1st, 2019.

The provisions of the Law on asylum and migration, adopted in France on September 10th 2018, related to integration entered into force on March 1st, 2019. They strengthen linguistic and civic trainings, foster the right to family reunification as well as access to social rights.

First, the number of hours of state funded language courses which every newcomers, including beneficiaries of international protection, have to attend within the framework of the Republican Integration Contract (CIR) have been doubled from 200 to a maximum of 400 hours with the goal to reach the A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in French. There are still no courses provided by the State for those with a level already higher to A1. A specific training module for unskilled and illiterate individuals has also been introduced: those concerned will be able to benefit from up to 600 hours of courses. Moreover, an implementing decree of 27 February 2019 lays down the possibility, for participants who have successfully reached A1 level, to apply within a period of six months upon completion of the training, for a proficiency test to obtain an official certification in French. For those accepting it, registration fees would be entirely covered by the French government.

Similarly, civic orientation courses have been increased from 12 hours to 24 hours - spread over four sessions – and will cover a wider range of topics: the history and values of the French Republic, the functioning of daily life and French institutions, the history of European construction, access to public services, healthcare, education, housing, employment but also support services for childcare or parenthood – to name but a few.

At the time of the signature of the CIR, the French office for immigration and integration (Ofii) will also offer - to the signatories who face particular difficulties in finding an employment and who agree to it
- the possibility to benefit from public employment support services to support their integration into the labour market. Three months after the completion of all trainings, the Ofii will organise a follow- up meeting to assess the progress achieved by the participants as well as their needs. On that occasion, the signatories who still face difficulties in finding an employment will be referred once again to public employment support services.

Other positive developments regarding integration for beneficiaries of international protection came into force sooner this year, on January 1st. The right to family reunification of children recognised refugees has been extended to their minor siblings, in addition to their parents who were already eligible family members. Furthermore, beneficiaries of international protection do not need to wait until the issuing of civil status documents by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra) anymore to access certain social rights. They can benefit from social and family benefits based on the family composition that has been taken into account during the asylum procedure.

Alexia Duvernoy, France Terre d'Asile