France Sets Up the Refugee Hotspots

On July 27, 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will set up refugee hotspots in Libya. These hotspots will process refugee claims and help deter people from attempting the journey across the Mediterranean.

The French government believes that by setting up the hotspots, it will prevent people ineligible for asylum from taking this dangerous and unpredictable journey and decrease human trafficking in the region.

France set up the refugee hotspots to help an estimated 660,000 refugees and internally displaced people in Libya. There are between 800,000 and one million men and women waiting in camps in Libya. So far, France is the only country in Europe to set up these hotspots, as other European countries are reluctant.

It is estimated that 100,000 people have made the trip across the Mediterranean since January. Sadly, more than 2,300 people have died on this journey and another 2,500 are missing. France set up the refugee hotspots to discourage people from making this dangerous trip in rickety boats operated by smugglers that frequently sink.

Days before France decided to set up the refugee hotspots, Macron hosted peace talks with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj aimed at bringing some stability to Libya and slowing the flow of refugees. The talks reportedly went well, and the country agreed to a ceasefire and fresh elections.

France stated that the country wants to play a bigger role in persuading Libya’s factions to end the country’s political crisis and armed conflict that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

France hopes to bring a significant change to the country. In 2015, France offered asylum to 20,630 refugees and wants to give more hope to the refugees waiting in Libya.

Paige Wilson

Photo: Google

France’s Poverty RateIn the near-decade since the global financial crisis, France, Europe’s third largest economy, has taken longer to recover than other major economies. Specifically, the French economy posted a growth rate just below 1.1 percent in 2015, lower than the growth in Germany (1.7 percent) and the U.K. (2.2 percent), the two largest economies in Europe. Despite the crisis and stagnant economic growth, France’s poverty rate has remained relatively low compared to other EU nations.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) officially reported France’s poverty rate from 2014 at 14.1 percent, equating to more than nine million people. INSEE estimated that the 2015 rate would grow to 14.3 percent, and plans to release the official statistics in September. This rate is better than the EU average of 17.2 percent, as well as many individual European economies, but still covers a large portion of the French population.

When determining the economic status of France, the poverty rate should not be the only number consulted. Unemployment remains high in France. In the most recently reported month, June 2017, unemployment in France stood at 9.6 percent. This is higher than the average in the EU and is more than twice the rates in Germany (3.8) and the U.S. (4.4) from the same month. Nearly three million people who are looking for a job in France cannot find one. Additionally, there is the concern of the next generation of French workers since the unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 15 and 24 is 24 percent.

However, it is difficult to determine whether there is a link between lowering the unemployment rate and lowering France’s poverty rate. France calculates its poverty rate in a relative manner, using an income of 60 percent or less than the average median income in the country as the poverty line. Gaining employment in France increases an individual’s income, but also shifts the poverty line as the median income changes. However, the high unemployment rate does have major implications on the future of the French economy.

Addressing poverty, the high unemployment rate and economic growth are major challenges faced by recently inaugurated president Emmanuel Macron. President Macron endorsed a number of proposals to address these issues during his campaign. The proposals include training programs for more than one million young people, making working hours more flexible and offering incentives to businesses hiring from poor neighborhoods. Implementation of and results from these proposals may not be seen for some time, but each works to address the poverty rate, unemployment rate and economic growth in France.

Erik Beck

Photo: Google

Water Quality in Vatican CityHome to the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Apostolic Chapel, Vatican City is one of the most sacred places in Christendom.

The sovereign city-state is contained within a walled enclave inside the city of Rome, giving it the distinction of being the world’s smallest country.

Main water resources in the city-state include the surface water from rivers and wetlands, groundwater from rocks and soil and treated government water supply. Water quality in Vatican City is good, thanks to the proliferation of drinking water fountains that take water directly from the mountains above the city.

Called “Nasoni” in Italian, the drinking water fountains in Rome are seen as inexpensive, environmentally-friendly options. The water is reportedly tested by the authorities about 250,000 times every year, ensuring that water quality in Vatican City is completely safe. Conveyed by an aqueduct to the drinking water fountains, an abundance of water means that a single family has more than 140 gallons to drink.

However, as recently as July 25, Vatican City decided to shut off all of its 100 decorative and drinking water fountains for conservation purposes because of a drought in Italy.

“The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water,” the Vatican City’s website said. The statement also noted that the water-saving move was “in line with the teachings of Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the issue of water security and water quality in Vatican City and around the world.

Earlier this year, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of Vatican City and the Catedra Del Dialogo y La Cultura Del Encountro of Argentina convened a diverse panel of experts from all over the world in a conference titled, “Human Right to Water: An interdisciplinary focus and contributions on the central role of public policies in water and sanitation management.” Members explored solutions to the global water challenges, including how to make drinking water safe and accessible to the neediest of people and communities.

At the conference, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of water and noted an important distinction between providing life-giving water and water that is safe and of good quality. Noting that every day, thousands of children die due to water-related illnesses, he urged scientists, government leaders, businesspeople and politicians to foster a shared “culture of care and encounter” and hear “the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.”

Furthermore, Pope Francis’ comprehensive encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care For Our Common Home), explains the Holy See’s views about the importance of good water quality: “In fact, access to safe drinking water is an essential, a fundamental and universal human right, because it determines the survival of people, and this is a requirement for the exercise of other human rights.”

As Italy struggles to respond to the drought crisis, both in and outside the Vatican City, Pope Francis has already inspired a global conversation centered on the values of the planet’s single most precious resource: water.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing archipelago of France that resides near the Newfoundland and Labrador province of Canada. It is currently the only part of New France that remains under French control. Hunger in Saint Pierre and Miquelon is mainly attributed to climate change and overfishing.

Fishing on both commercial and local scales provides 41 percent of the population’s income. During U.S. Prohibition in the 1920s, the islands became a popular spot for rumrunners to import alcohol into the United States. Business was so successful that men quit their jobs to work on producing alcohol. As soon as Prohibition ended, the economy of Saint Pierre and Miquelon started suffering.

As of August 2017, the standard of living in Saint Pierre and Miquelon is already quite small in comparison to Paris. Additionally, it is also small in comparison with any territory or country. Although Saint Pierre and Miquelon has a low standard of living, they also import more than 95.35 million euros, mostly in clothing and meats.

The low cost of living in a way helps the people with access to very affordable fruits and vegetables. Some can cost less than one euro per pound. This low cost contributes to the lack of hunger in Saint Pierre and Miquelon because healthy food is readily available to them. Most only earn a monthly salary of 1,400 euros, with 0.92 euros being equivalent to one U.S. dollar.

In 2008, the unemployment rates were 9.9 percent, contributing to a rise in poverty and ultimately hunger in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The fluctuation in fishing profits directly influences the standard of living. The inhabitants have earned their income through the fishing trade, both domestically and internationally, which contributed to their economy and dinner plates. This economy, however, has been declining due to disputes with Canada over fishing quotas, and the use of overfishing.

Although France subsidizes Saint Pierre and Miquelon to the great benefit of living standards, the current living standards remain quite low. An average monthly salary in Paris is over 2,000 euros, which contributes to their high standard of living and low poverty, along with a large number of profits from tourism.

Through the islands, rich smuggling history and many sights to visit, Saint Pierre and Miquelon could thrive with a successful tourist industry that might counteract the effects of the fishing economy decreasing. With a boost to the economy, hunger in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, as well as the unemployment, could be improved upon while creating a higher standard of living.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in FranceFrance is arguably one of the most romantic and aesthetically appealing places on Earth; that being said, it is crucial to be aware of common diseases in France whether one is traveling abroad or a permanent resident of the country.

 

Most Common Diseases in France: Contraction and Vaccination

 

If one is traveling, Hepatitis A outbreaks occur throughout the world, and it is still possible to contract this disease through contaminated food or water in France. Hepatitis B can be contracted through sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies is also a present disease in France if traveling, however, it is not a major risk factor unless the travel includes various actives in remote areas that could put one at risk of being bitten.

For these diseases, the CDC recommends staying up to date on routine vaccines before every trip. Among the vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine, a polio vaccine and a yearly flu shot.

If residing permanently in France, one may have noticed vaccines have been a heated topic in the country. While addressing Parliament recently, Édouard Phillipe, the prime minister under the new president, Emmanuel Macron, stated that starting in 2018 parents will be required to vaccinate their children for 11 different diseases. A major trigger that led to this decision was when a measles outbreak occurred earlier this year and the nation was hit badly.

Three vaccines are currently compulsory: diphtheria, tetanus, and poliomyelitis. In 2018 this list will become more extensive, including other common diseases in France such as polio, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza bacteria, pneumococcus, and meningococcus C.

Ironically, in a study involving 65,819 people across 67 countries last year, France was the most hesitant when it came to trusting vaccinations. Forty-one percent of individuals surveyed in the country disagreed with the statement “vaccines are safe” when compared to the average of 13 percent globally.

In the face of changing attitudes toward common diseases in France, government policy may take time to shift perceptions and alleviate the prevalence of these diseases and ensure prosperity for all.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Google

Human Rights in FranceLiberty, equality, fraternity. France’s national motto ensures equal liberties and rights for its people without discrimination and is a cornerstone of French democracy. As an active member of the Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council and Economic and Social Council, France has a history of advocating for human rights.

However, human rights in France have been jeopardized by measures of counterterrorism accompanied by a lack of judicial regulation. The French government declared a state of emergency in November of 2015 after a series of terrorist attacks. Parliament extended the declaration until July of 2017, allowing a two-year span of infringement on human rights in France in regards to freedom of movement, privacy, security, freedom of association and even expression. Without judicial intervention, multiple accounts of infringement on freedoms without causes were reported over the two years, which mainly targeted the Muslim community in France.

During this sociopolitical trauma, the government allowed over 3,200 raids and over 350 house arrests. According to Izza Legthasa, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, “France has a responsibility to ensure public safety and try to prevent further attacks, but the police have used their new emergency powers in abusive, discriminatory, and unjustified ways. This abuse has traumatized families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens.”

While France should take proper precaution to avoid and prevent future terrorist attacks, the measures taken to prevent such attacks must not promote the targeting of certain demographics of the French population in the name of security.

Although 2016 was not a proud year for human rights in France, 2017 does look more promising with the inauguration of France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron. His inaugural speech ensured that “France will always make sure to be on the side of…human rights.” The policies President Macron intends to implement will protect human rights and act as a model which other European countries can apply to their own governments for the sake of protecting personal rights and liberties.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

From the Senne to the Mediterranean, France is hailed as one of the most expensive countries on the globe. With delicacies such as escargot and macarons, it’s no wonder the cost of living in France is higher than in most nations. The capital city of Paris ranks among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, with the country as a whole being among the top 20 most expensive countries in the world.

Everything from gas to a loaf of bread has an inflated price in France. The average price per gallon of gas in France is around $5.54. The same amount of gas in Venezuela would be about $0.12. These countries couldn’t be farther apart in distance, and their people have near polar opposite lifestyles, demonstrating the wealth disparity and high cost of living in France.

Housing is arguably the biggest factor in living cost, and France is a prime example of a competitive housing market. Paris is on par with other major cities such as Beijing and Chicago in terms of monthly price. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Paris per month is $1,730. The same apartment over 5,000 miles away in Beijing would be $1,900 a month.

It is not always the average person looking for a place to live in France. In 2016, a villa in southern France was estimated to be valued at $1 billion. Many have reported this house to be the most expensive in the world.

Currency also reflects a country’s cost of living. The euro has been volatile in recent months but is consistently valued higher than other major currencies, such as the dollar. Over the past three months, the euro has steadily grown to four percent more valuable than the dollar. This disparity increases cost of living in France.

From the French Riviera to Normandy’s beaches, France is regularly one of the most expensive places to live. Paris tops many lists with its exuberant prices and is widely known to be exclusively for the wealthy. This ideology is not solely in Paris, as cities across France continue to see prices soar for everything from rent to a loaf of bread.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr


For years, tourists have come to Paris to proclaim their undying love by placing a lock on the Pont Des Arts bridge, better known as “Lover’s Bridge.” However, the love locks are no more as Paris officials have begun removing the locks after several railings began collapsing due to the enormous weight.

However, the sad end to the love locks on the bridge was commemorated through a charity auction, hosted by Solipam, the Salvation Army and Emmaus Solidarite to raise money for refugees in France.

The auction comes at a time when numerous refugee camps are being burned down and protests are appearing throughout Paris to ward off the arrival of new refugees. In February, police took refugees’ blankets and sleeping bags and they were told to “get out of France,” a complete disregard of the government’s orders to assist the refugees.

Opposition to the government’s “open arms” for the refugees protested the auction. However, the protests did not deter the charity’s supporters but rather encouraged them to raise more money.

Originally thought to only sell for a total of about $100,000 USD, the charity auction raised more than twice that amount. The love locks were placed on unique displays, such as a recycled stone Eiffel Tower replica, a lock-covered fence on wheels and even small delicate glass displays. Displays were sold for as little as $165 USD and as much as $18,000 USD. At the end of the night, supporters raised over $270,000 USD.

Following the love locks auction, France continues to find a common ground between the opposition and supporters for helping refugees and find solutions for the increasing amount of refugees entering the country. As refugees reassemble at the former “Jungle” refugee center in Calais, France must decide if they will continue to help refugees in their country or try to evict them. The French government and some Paris officials have already begun helping the refugees arriving in Calais.

The love locks auction gave hope to refugees in France that they might finally receive help from the country.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr


On May 7, Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker and political newcomer, became president of France. The French election was divisive, but among the strongest supporters of President Macron’s centrist policies were those living in poverty across the globe and those hoping to help them.

Macron has vowed to increase France’s foreign aid budget to 0.7 percent of the country’s GDP. Three years ago that budget was 0.36 percent, which translated to $10 billion. With the budget doubled, many impoverished people can expect to see increased aid from France.

In his own words, Macron envisions a newly open relationship with Africa, “without any false post-colonial coyness.” The history of French intervention in Africa will not be brushed under the rug with his administration, rather it will be rectified by investing in the developing continent.

As a former investment banker, Macron sees how investing in Africa’s development now will help his country in the long run. Of World Finance’s five fastest growing economies in 2017, three are African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. Further, Macron will hold France to the economic partnership made between the EU and the Southern Africa Development Community last year.

Macron has also committed to the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which states one of its direct goals is “to end poverty and hunger.” In June, he’s agreed to lobby the G20 Summit to invest in Africa’s economic development as well.

Amid threats of terrorism and corruption in many African countries, President Emmanuel Macron emphasizes solidifying safety and autonomy abroad more than anything else. Dictatorships threatening democracy were supposedly strengthened by French leaders for years, serving their own interests in place of the African people. This system, referred to as the “francafrique,” is one of the imperial remnants that Macron intends to completely do away with as he builds a fresh relationship with Africa.

In an election dominated by domestic affairs, President Emmanuel Macron dedicated himself to being an ally to the world’s poor. Time will tell the benefits that his election brings.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr


Known for its Tour de France, Eiffel Tower, natural wonders and great wealth, no one would ever suspect that the water quality in France is so poor.

The poor water quality might not be evident at first as most of the population enjoys clean water. In 2014, it was recorded that 98 percent of the population in France have access to clean water, a 280,000 person increase from 2012.

In the same year, 95 percent of households in France reported having a water supply that conforms to legal standards.

With such a high population enjoying clean water, where is the water quality in France considered so bad? The answer is not in modern, urban areas, but rather the forgotten rural areas where the agriculture industry reigns.

Approximately 1.5 million people, or five percent of France’s population, are drinking polluted water. Most of these people live in the rural areas of eastern or southern France in addition to the agricultural areas surrounding Paris where 20 percent or more of the population drink contaminated water. Additionally, 63 percent of homes have polluted water-accounting for around 900,000 people.

Experts noted that the cause of the contaminated water, in towns with less than 500 people, is due to the fact that these agricultural areas are exposed to high levels of pesticides and nitrates from fertilizers and livestock manure.

Additional contamination factors are said to be from natural radioactive chemicals and lime, which creates hard water residue on drinking glasses.

Although the contamination rate has fallen 35 percent since 2012, the quality gap is deafening and not much is being done for rural areas.

On the brighter side, the areas where France has improved water quality is due to the improvement of pollution control and reforming water standards. Over the past decade, France has made a huge investment in water treatment and control of the use of pesticides and chemicals that may contaminate the water. France has also improved their water quality through piped household connections, public taps, tube wells, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection.

With these new improvements to the water quality in France, the country continues to find solutions for clean and drinkable water.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr