France Introduces Tougher Immigration Bill, Raising Outcry

  • Proposal seen testing unity of Macron parliamentary majority
  • Human rights organizations, charities call the bill repressive
Emmanuel Macron Photographer: Lisi Niesner/Bloomberg

President Emmanuel Macron is putting the unity of his parliamentary majority to a test with legislation that will tighten controls over immigration to France, speed up deportations and tighten qualifications for asylum, and which human rights organizations are casting as repressive.

The government presented the bill Wednesday during its cabinet meeting. It will then be discussed by the laws committees in the two chambers of Parliament, with amendments put forth by opposition parties on both the right and the left, before being debated in April, officials said.

The proposal is straining the cohesion of Macron’s left-and-right majority as several members have openly criticized it. Migrants associations and the French Human Rights League expressed their disapproval while workers at the asylum seekers’ state office OFPRA were planning a strike Wednesday.

Tougher Rules

France’s last reform of immigration rules dates to July 2015, before the massive waves of arrivals to Europe of asylum seekers and migrants fleeing war and economic struggle in the Middle East and Africa.

Macron has said repeatedly that he would seek with European Union partners to toughen immigration rules and ensure that the 27-member bloc is better equipped in terms of regulations and staffing to counter unwanted arrivals. In a September speech on Europe, Macron called on the EU to set up a joint immigration policy within a year.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said last month the future law aims to put France on par with its European neighbors since the country’s existing rules are “much more favorable” than those of other nations.

The bill faces opposition from both the conservative Republicans party, which says the proposal isn’t tough enough, and leftwing parties and human rights groups that say it goes against France’s long tradition of solidarity and asylum.

Accelerate Integration

The bill aims to double to 90 days the time that illegal migrants can be detained for, and to shorten deadlines to apply for asylum. It will make the illegal crossing of borders an offense punishable by one year in jail and fines. It also includes some measures to help accelerate legal migrants’ integration into French society.

An Elabe survey published in January showed 61 percent of the respondents didn’t believe the government would be able to reform the immigration laws while a BVA poll this month showed 63 percent of respondents say there are too many immigrants in France.

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