Their lives were at risk on the frontline of covid. France now has 12,000 of these citizens.

Fouad Kérabee checked his status online almost every day to verify if he is now French citizens. When he spotted his name in a list of people whose applications got the green light this summer, it capped a long journey for the 33-year-old oncologist.

“I had worked during the crisis when there was a need for doctors, when there was a lot of fear of covid,” said the Lebanese-born doctor. We didn’t have much information about the virus. It was impossible to develop a vaccine. It was a difficult time, but it was our duty to keep doing our jobs.”

With his new passport, “a new page has opened” — in the words of Kerbage, who has lived in France since he studied there as a resident in 2017.

Like him, around 12,000 people have just become French, under a special fast-track program for workers standing on the front line of the battle against covid-19.

They include doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, cashiers and garbage collectors, France’s citizenship minister, Marlene Schiappa, said Thursday.

“These front-line workers responded to the call of the nation. She said that it is common for a nation to make a move toward them. “The country pulled through, thanks to them.”

The pandemic has also prompted calls in other countries for visa and residency restrictions to be lifted for foreign workers who have put their lives at risk in health-care systems that need them.

In the United States, nearly 29,000 health-care workers — out of many more undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” — feared losing their permits last year when the Trump administration sought to end a program that protects them from deportation. The Supreme Court later blocked the attempt.

Britain, meanwhile, gave thousands of health-care workers a free extension of their British visas, although proposals for migrant medics to keep paying visa fees have faced backlash. Doctors’ associations have urged the British government to let foreign-born workers, who make up about 13.8 percent of the country’s National Health Service, stay in the country indefinitely.

Under its pandemic initiative, France took in 12,012 new nationals out of more than 16,300 people who sent applications for citizenship, a process that includes interviews and tests. Their cases were expedited and the residency requirement was reduced from five to two years.

For Kerbage, the good news brought comfort. It also gave him stability at a time when his home country Lebanon is sinking into chaos, in part because of bread, electricity and medicine shortages.

“It was a journey,” he said. “But it was great to go through it, to study for the interview, to learn all the history of France and how it got here today.”

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