On August 31, a group representing these couples met for the second time with French government officials to discuss a system of pass which gives access to certain foreigners who can prove that they have a committed relationship with a French citizen.
This system was announced on August 9 by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a young minister at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
But activists for the rights of separated couples described it as too long and complicated, and denounced the fact that to date, no passes have been issued.
The group, gathered on Facebook under the name LoveIsNotTourism – French foreign couples (formerly called LoveIsNotTourism- COVID 19- Couples separated beyond EU borders), is fighting for unmarried couples to have the same rights as married couples going through travel restrictions.
France has banned people from certain countries deemed dangerous – such as the United States, Brazil or Russia – from entering the country.
People currently in these countries can only enter France if they are French or EU citizens (who may be accompanied by their spouse or children), residents of France or another country in the EU and transiting through France to get there, or if they work in an area relevant to the fight against Covid-19.
Activists first met French officials at the end of July and were promised action would be taken to grant unmarried couples similar rights to married couples. But after that, there was “radio silence”, said Fabien Lefebvre, administrator of the Facebook group.
The second and most recent meeting took place after Mr. Lemoyne invited activists to come and speak during an interview on news channel BFM TV.
“We had already tried [to arrange a followup meeting] but this time he invited us on TV and here we are. This is how this meeting went, ”said Mr. Lefebvre of the August 31 meeting.
The meeting brought together five representatives of the LoveisNotTourism group, as well as representatives of Mr Lemoyne and the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.
Over 600 applications for a pass
Mr. Lefebvre said the group wanted to discuss some improvements to the newly introduced system.
He said the top priority was better communication regarding whether married couples are in civil partnership (Solidarity civil pact or PACS) or live together and have a common lease, do not need to apply for the pass. They can enter France through a much more streamlined process.
Another point they would like to rectify is that the current wording of the pass protocol means that only partners of French nationals have the right to apply. A French resident who has lived in the country for years would be excluded.
Then there is the issue of children.
“There are foreign partners who already have children, who are still minors, and so they hoped to apply pass for the children as well, but we told them: “oh no, it’s only for you”, declared Mr. Lefebvre.
Mr. Lefebvre also said the group wanted to work with the government to make the process more efficient. Originally it was announced that the pass The system would allow couples to be reunited within eight days, which turned out not to be the case.
In response, government officials told activists that the consulate and other relevant ministries were making efforts to meet the demands of the pass.
Since August 11, consulates have received more than 600 applications, activists were informed at the meeting. Of these, 10 to 15% are rejected, sometimes because they have nothing to do with the procedure, such as poorly sent work permit applications.
518 valid requests were sent by the consulates to a sub-branch of the Ministry of the Interior in charge of visas. Of these, 119 were sent to an interministerial crisis unit. After that, they will be referred back to consulates to confirm travel arrangements with applicants.
According to the Facebook group, this means that the first passes should be released this week or early next week.
If Brad Pitt can, why can’t we?
Mr. Lefebvre stressed that it was important for couples to be reunited as there was a significant impact on their mental health, with some reporting sleep disturbances, eating problems and signs of depression.
“Everyone remembers this feeling of relief at the end of imprisonment. The problem for couples separated by borders is that, for them, their love life is still blocked, ”said Mr. Lefebvre.
“They were denied the right to see each other for six, seven, eight months and the answer they were given was, ‘Well, wait.’ It is no longer manageable.
“What’s really difficult for them, let alone the distance between them and their partner, is not knowing. We’re used to long distance relationships, but we all had plans or plans together, and now it’s all stuck until some unknown time. ”
Another reason it’s so difficult, he said, is that the group increasingly sees exceptions to travel restrictions imposed elsewhere.
“Recently we saw that Brad Pitt was on vacation in France, Kylie Jenner was jogging in Paris: they are Americans and normally they should not be allowed.
“And so there is the feeling that we are not recognized as couples. Couples with a marriage contract can be reunited, but today, for 21st century couples, marriage is no longer a [indicator of a strong relationship]. So all of this is very difficult to manage, especially in these times, ”he said.
Learn more about the impact of the coronavirus on travel:
Coronavirus: transnational couples separated by travel bans
Travel ban to the United States ending a widowed mother’s visit to France