Displaying items by tag: France
The text of the 1905 French law that lays down the separation of church and state in the country doesn't specifically mention secularism. Nevertheless, the principle is a key part of the country's political fabric. But tensions between some sections of Islam and an interpretation of secular values have now become more pronounced, particularly in recent weeks. Protests have erupted in recent days in many Muslim countries against France, its president, Emmanuel Macron, and its perceived animosity towards their faith. France claims it is officially neutral, supporting neither religion nor the absence of it.
President Emmanuel Macron has announced a night-time curfew in Paris and eight other cities to try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus. It affects 22 million people and will be applied for four weeks, possibly extending to six weeks. Germany announced that bars and restaurants in higher-risk areas must close by 23:00 as the country recorded the highest daily infection figure since the start of the pandemic (6,638 in 24 hours). Private gatherings are limited to ten people from two households. Meanwhile, as Spaniards prepared to travel for a long weekend national holiday, Madrid residents were told to stay home as another state of emergency to curb rising coronavirus cases was implemented. Madrid’s leader wants a partial lockdown to avoid deeper damage to businesses: see Pray for the businesses facing bankruptcies, for the millions now unemployed, and for the governments running out of resources for furloughed workers.
After pausing for the coronavirus lockdown and summer holidays, the Yellow Vests brought their anger back to the streets for a series of protests in Paris and a number of other French cities. Their last major protest was on 14 March, on the eve of local elections. This was just three days before the country went into lockdown for Covid-19. The protests were in defiance of a ban from President Macron over mass gatherings. It is almost two years since the first Yellow Vest protest on 17 November 2018. Their numbers at first soared and then ebbed. The question now is whether they will rise again like a phoenix from the ashes as social dissension grows over Covid restrictions. People fear another outbreak of violence on the Champs-Elysées, where all gatherings have been banned.
Last month you prayed for compassionate provisions for refugees (see). Now Tony Smith, the former head of UK Border Force, said that if the UK and France fail to agree joint Channel patrols, arrivals will reach crisis levels. He said, ‘They need to agree a treaty with a joint patrol where migrants picked up in the Channel can be returned to France to have asylum claims considered there. What I'm advocating is we try as best we can to replicate the juxtaposed controls for legitimate applicants in the same way as for illegitimate applicants. Over 200 migrants managed to cross to Britain in twenty boats in one day. If they want to come to the UK they need to make their case on the French side, and if they are found in the waterways or even make it as far as Dover we say, “I'm sorry but you go back there and that's where you will be interviewed and processed, on the French side”.’
On 12 July as many as 180 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK (see https://news.sky.com/story/number-of-migrants-crossing-english-channel-hits-new-daily-high-12027639) In six months 2,600+ people have crossed illegally into the UK, compared with 1,850 during the whole of 2019. The home secretary met her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to push for fresh action to curb the ‘unacceptable’ daily crossings and tackle the ruthless people-smuggling gangs behind them. The two ministers will establish a joint intelligence unit based near Calais, where UK Border Force and National Crime Agency officers will work alongside their French counterparts. The new unit will consist of six British and six French police officers. Also, Miss Patel said France should start towing boatloads of illegal migrants back to its shores, saying it was not beyond the collective experience of French and UK officials to create a plan for returns at sea.
In 2017 Emmanuel Macron won 66% of the vote to become France's youngest-ever president. It was the first time in half a century that France had a president from outside its two main political parties. An incumbent's first term in office usually defines his political identity and policy agenda. But three years into a five-year term, in trying to win support from a politically diverse electorate, Macron has failed to define his political agenda or his natural political base. With preparation for re-election in 2022 firmly on his mind, he faces a series of challenges. His LREM party took a thrashing in recent local elections, a clear rebuke for tying his potential next term to a robust environmental and social agenda. The crushing of LREM's candidate in Paris' mayoral race was particularly embarrassing for the party.
Smuggling networks have been trying to take advantage of the rush to buy medical supplies - including face masks - to tackle the coronavirus epidemic. By the end of April, French police had dismantled a number of such networks, stopped scams and attempted scams to the value of over €30 million, and seized 438,000 masks. In addition, 5.7 million masks ostensibly ordered on the internet have been the subject of a scam or attempted scam. While the crisis has shown the best of ourselves and enabled exceptional acts of solidarity, it has also been an opportunity for some to try to take advantage of the situation, to exploit fear of the disease.
Europeans are relaxing coronavirus restrictions for children, with Spain allowing under-14s out of their homes from this week. Holland’s primary schools reopen next month, and French children aged 5 to 11 will return to school on 12 May, but with a limit of 15 pupils per class. The following week, older children will return in selected year groups. Angela Merkel warned that Germany may be rushing its lockdown exit as physical distancing is relaxing and smaller shops reopen. She said Germany remained ‘on the thinnest ice’ despite early achievements. Belgium has a detailed plan to lift coronavirus restrictions gradually, starting on 4 May, when fabric shops will open in order for people to comply with requirements for children over 12 to wear masks on public transport. From 11 May all shops and schools will reopen, with limited pupils in each class.
Over 250 million Europeans are in full or partial lockdown as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and France have closed schools and all non-essential shops and ordered people to stay at home. Italians in lockdown sing together from their balconies to boost morale and put candles in their windows in support of emergency workers, pharmacists, doctors, and all those putting their lives at risk. Pray for God’s protection over all these people. Italian children are making signs that say, ‘We will overcome this’. In France and Italy only one person from each household can go shopping. May God convict residents to comply with the government rules regardless of inconvenience. Intensive care in some regional care systems are ‘close to collapse’, despite efforts to free up hospital beds. Outside China, two-thirds of all cases and three-quarters of all deaths are in Europe. Europe has now recorded 600 more deaths than China.
Mali was under French colonial rule until early 1959, when it assumed independence. However, France has 5,500 troops there working to keep the peace. Now France’s defence minister has said they will boost its military presence in the area to counter increasing violence carried out by armed groups. 600 additional troops will be deployed by March. On 14 February at least 40 people were killed in Ogossagou, the Fulani village that was targeted in a massacre of 160 people last year by Dogon militiamen. Huts and crops were set alight, livestock burned or taken away, and 28 people are missing. Clashes between the Dogon and Fulani ethnic groups are frequent, compounding a dire security situation in Mali's semi-arid and desert regions, where attacks by armed groups are common. See also