PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Wednesday it would create 11,000 places to house refugees and asylum seekers as the number of people living in illegal migrant camps swells.
Such camps have grown rapidly in France as Europe has struggled to cope with an influx of migrants this year streaming in through Greece and Italy.
In addition to increasing available accommodation, France’s Socialist government said it also aimed to cut the time required to handle asylum requests to nine months from two years.
But Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said there was no question of backsliding on illegal immigrants motivated by economic reasons, who he said would be sent back “without taboo”.
The government said the new housing for asylum seekers and political refugees would be concentrated in the Paris region and Calais in northern France.
Authorities in the capital have recently torn down several illegal camps that have sprung up while migrants trying to reach Britain have clashed with police at camps near Calais.
Some 1,500 out of the new places being created could be used to temporarily house migrants that had not received refugee or asylum seeker status in order to reduce the number of illegal camps.
France, Italy and Germany agreed on Tuesday to join forces to identify migrants arriving by sea and to swiftly relocate them across the European Union or send them back to their home countries if their claims for asylum in Europe are rejected.
Cazeneuve has said that about 15,000 migrants were turned back at France’s borders in 2014 and that he had ordered even tougher controls this year.
Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus