French oppose softer rules on refugee status, favour Syria strikes

Pope calls on every European parish to host one migrant family each

A majority of French people are against softening rules to access refugee status, a poll showed on Sunday even as thousands poured to the streets to show their solidarity with migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

Around 8,500 people marched in Paris on Saturday carrying banners such as “Refugees welcome”. Other demonstrations took place in several cities across the country.

But a poll conducted by Odoxa for Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui en France daily showed 55 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed were opposed to an easing of rules for migrants asking for refugee status, including Syrians fleeing civil war.

Thirty-three percent thought France was less hospitable to war refugees than Germany, which opened its door to several hundred thousands of migrants in the last months, while 44 percent thought they are on the same line.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition is expected to agree on a series of measures on Sunday, including cutting red tape to facilitate the construction of asylum shelters, increasing funds for federal states and towns, and speeding up asylum procedures.

The picture of three year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up in the Aegean resort of Bodrum spawned sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the images showed the need for urgent action by Europe to address the crisis.

France is now considering joining a coalition conducting air strikes on Islamic State in Syria, Le Monde said on its website on Saturday, quoting an unnamed “high level source”.

Such a decision would likely be broadly endorsed politically, former prime minister and conservative candidate to presidency Alain Juppe said on Sunday.

“I think there could be quite a large agreement on this,” he told reporters from Europe 1 radio, iTele TV and Le Monde daily when asked whether there would be a consensus if President Francois Hollande was to decide air strikes on Syria.

In the Odoxa poll, 61 percent said they would back France taking part in a coalition sending ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State.

France was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq, but had ruled out doing so in Syria, fearing that would benefit President Bashar al-Assad.

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