M Philippe said on Wednesday the government wanted to “take back control” of the country’s migration flows, signalling its intent to end what Mr Macron recently referred to as a “lax” approach.
“We want to take back control of our immigration policy… That means when we say yes it really means yes, and when we say no it really means no,” he told reporters as he unveiled a string of measures on immigration.
M Philippe added that the 20 new measures on immigration were the mark of a “France that is open but not naïve”.
“I think we have found the right balance between reassuring our citizens and not giving ground to populism,” he said.
The conservative PM also said that the test for acquiring French citizenship would be made more difficult and that the government would aim to process asylum applications within six months.
The centrist administration has so far resisted growing pressure from right-wing opponents on immigration, in part because many of M Macron’s left-leaning allies are uncomfortable with any measures they feel mirror those promoted by the populist far-right.
However, opinion polls show voters are increasingly worried about the issue, driving support for right-wing leader Marine Le Pen, M Macron’s closest political rival.
Mme Le Pen, for her part, dismissed the new measures as political posturing.
“If I was in a bad mood I would say this is a political swindle. As I am in a good mood I say this is smoke and mirrors. This is an electoral move,” she told Europe 1 radio later on Wednesday.
Voters too are unconvinced by M Macron’s immigration push, a poll published on Thursday found.
The poll, carried out by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting for France Info radio and Le Figaro newspaper, found that 73 percent of French people have a “bad opinion” of the government’s migration policy, compared with 27 percent who have a “good opinion”.
Sixty-one percent, however, said they were in favour of imposing quotas on migrant workers, while 63 percent backed the plan to tighten access to free healthcare services for new asylum seekers.
In the second quarter of this year, France received 28,575 asylum applications, or 426 per million inhabitants, according to Eurostat data. This is well above the EU average of 291 asylum applications per million inhabitants, and puts France in eighth place overall in Europe.
The Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting poll of 1,005 people aged 18 and over was carried out online on November 6-7.
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