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France: new law brings positive changes for the integration of refugees

On September 10th 2018, a new law on asylum and migration was adopted in France. With regards to the integration of refugees the law brings some positive changes, with regards to residence permits, language courses or support to access the labour market. 

by Hélène Soupios-David, France terre d'asile 

First, the law introduces a multiannual residence permit of a maximum duration of 4 years for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and stateless persons as well as some of their family members. In practice, those residence permits will allow a simplification of the administrative process, since annual renewal will not be needed anymore. Also, it will allow a greater stability concerning employment and housing, facilitating the integration process. After these initial 4 years, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and stateless persons will be entitled to a 10 years residence permit. 
Moreover, parents of children recognized refugees (e.g. for fear of being subject to female genital mutilation) will be able to obtain a 10 years residence permit even if their stay in France was irregular. This residence permit allows parents of refugee children to have access to the labour market as well as social benefits if they have no ressources. 

A third major change concerns the strengthening of the Republican Integration Contract (CIR), -the mandatory integration programme that all newcomers have to follow in France. The law foresees an increase in the number of hours of language courses, with a view, in particular,  to facilitate their job search. The law doesn’t specify the exact amount of needed hours but in a National Strategy on the integration of Refugees published in June 2018, it was mentioned that state funded language courses would be doubled from a maximum of 200 hours to 400 hours. With regards to language class, some Members of Parliament had suggested, in line with recommendations from civil society, to provide courses already during the time of the asylum determination procedure, but this was finally rejected by the Parliament. Furthermore, the law adds a professional component to the CIR that will be mandatory for newcomers. The latter must be accompanied by an advisor in career choice and will benefit from help in the integration process. 

On this topic, the impact of the law remains uncertain. Indeed, this new activity will be carried out by the French office for immigration and integration (Ofii), while mainstream support is the responsibility of the public agency for employment (Pôle emploi). These two types of support will need to be implemented in a complementary manner. 

Beyond the framework of this new law, changes to the French integration policy have resulted from the creation of an inter-ministerial delegation for the reception and integration of refugees (DiAir) in January 2018 and the publication of the above-mentioned National Strategy; This text includes seven priorities and 67 actions that should be implemented between 2018 and 2021. Two measures were launched on 26th October: Volont’R, a civic service with and for refugees, and Mento’R a mentoring programme for refugees.    

The new provisions set by the law will come into force following the adoption of implementing decrees at the latest by March 1st, 2019.