To foster better integration into France’s society, the government is doubling down on the number of French lessons it offers to migrants.
Prime minister Édouard Philippe said in a statement this week that migrants, which live in the country legally, will now have 400 hours of free French language lessons available to them—double that of what was on offer before. New arrivals who are particularly struggling with the language can get up to 600 hours of lessons.
His administration will also extend civic training lessons given to migrants from 12 to 24 hours. In these lessons, migrants are taught French values, and are given practical support on how to find a job and a place to live. Migrant parents attending these classes will also be given free childcare. In addition, young migrants will be given a new €500 ($591) “culture pass,” which allows them to visit museums and other cultural institutions in the country.
While Philippe didn’t unveil how much the scheme would cost, he said that up until now France’s efforts to integrate migrants had “lacked ambition.”
While the French government’s integration strategy for lawfully residing new arrivals is a positive step, the response to undocumented migrants has been far more stringent. In April, the French National Assembly approved a controversial immigration bill, which doubled the amount of time undocumented migrants can be detained and shortened asylum application deadlines. The bill also introduced a one-year prison sentence for those entering France illegally. Though the French government described the bill as a balanced response to Europe’s refugee crisis, it sparked outrage among the left and the far-right.