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French Press Review 22 February 2018


French Barkhane force records two more deaths in the Sahel. And will the new draft asylum bill really balance efficiency and humanity?

We begin with reactions to the death of two soldiers from France's counter-terrorism force in Mali, after their vehicle struck a mine in the northeast of the country on Wednesday.

Le Figaro reports that the latest deaths brought to 12 the number of French soldiers killed since the start of Operation Barkhane, which was launched more than three years ago to quell jihadist activity in the former French colony and in neighbouring countries.

Le Parisien highlights President Emmanuel Macron's praise of French soldiers based in Mali, who he specially commended for the killing or arrest of 23 terrorists including the leaders of Ansar Eddine and Al-Mourabitoune two groups of Islamist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.

The paper also relays the determination of the French leader to bolster the 4,000-strong French Barkhane operation based in the Sahel until a new five-country African force can be set up to progressively shoulder more of the counter-terrorism effort.

Le Républicain Lorrain says the soldiers' death sounds like a cruel reminder about the necessity to eradicate Jihadi cells masterminding the massive wave of migration towards the other banks of the Mediterranean.

L'Union says the death of the French soldiers offers a new opportunity to clarify public opinion about the imperative of France's military engagement in the Sahel. Their combat mission there is indispensable for the protection of the French mainland argues the regional publication.

According to the paper, French troops need to be in the Sahel to be able to raze the bases of the terrorists to the ground, hunt down radical Islamist groups using the vast Sahara desert as a base to operate all sorts of evil designs.

L'Union warns anyone who hasn't understood what is being played out in the Sahel to understand that some experts are right in their projections that it will take a 30 year war to pacify the Sahel again.

For l’Alsace, humanitarian organizations are right in their assertion that the solution to the problem cannot be entirely military. It also passes through economic choices and education it argues pointing out that these would at least dissuade young Africans passionate about a dream future in France and Europe. The publication upholds the view that the security question cannot be dissociated from the topical issue of migrants.

And talking about immigration, some papers believe that the tough new immigration bill presented in Wednesday's cabinet meeting is proving to be one of the most divisive reforms of Emmanuel Macron's young presidency. 

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the bill criminalizing illegal border crossings and speeding up the deportation of so-called economic migrants is aimed at balancing «efficiency" with "humanity".

But la Voix du Nord warns that a 72-point proposal by aRepublican's on the Move lawmaker to facilitate the integration of migrants could wreck the reform and fuel more passionate squabbles about the Centrist government's callousness from the left while the conservative opposition lashes out against President Macron's lack of spine.

According to la Montagne Centre France, by setting aside France's age-old tradition of being a land of exile and promoting the idea that refugees can be detained as free men would cause the most serious rift in Macron's parliamentary majority.

For l'Eclair des Pyrénées, it is easy to understand under the current circumstances when the government put up firmness and generosity at the same time why it is finding it hard to define a coherent immigration policy.


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