PARIS (News21USA) – Workers at France’s asylum claims office went on a rare strike on Tuesday, saying they were understaffed and overworked and that a new immigration law to be voted on later in the day would worsen problems things.
«We are not machines, they are people in front of us and these are important decisions,» said Sabine Trapateau, a striking legal adviser at the asylum applications office, known as OFPRA.
On Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers in the upper house of parliament will formally vote on a law, largely influenced by the right, that will restrict the rights of immigrants in the country.
The law, which has not yet been debated by the lower house of parliament, proposes facilitating the deportation of non-nationals, restricting access to health care, adding conditions for family reunification and eliminating the automatic right to birthright citizenship.
«We are concerned that this law will make a fragile population, with whom we conduct interviews every day, even more fragile,» said Anouk Leras, CGT union representative at OFPRA.
OFPRA workers are calling for more staff to be hired to help respond to asylum applications in a timely manner and to issue administrative documents, such as birth certificates, without which it would be difficult for applicants to access housing and work.
OFPRA workers rarely strike, and the last time they did so was in 2018, to oppose an immigration law that was being passed.
Currently, a refugee whose asylum application has been accepted must wait a year to receive their administrative documents, due to delays in the issuance process, according to Leras.
Regarding asylum applications, Senate lawmakers adopted an amendment proposing the creation of kiosks at police stations at the local level, with the intention of expediting asylum applications.
However, striking workers say this measure could reduce OFPRA’s independence from the police.
The CGT estimated that around a quarter of OFPRA workers participated in Tuesday’s strike.
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