France President Emmanuel Macron has said repeatedly that he would seek with EU partners to toughen immigration rules and ensure that the bloc is better equipped in terms of regulations to counter unwanted arrivals. Photo: Bloomberg
France President Emmanuel Macron has said repeatedly that he would seek with EU partners to toughen immigration rules and ensure that the bloc is better equipped in terms of regulations to counter unwanted arrivals. Photo: Bloomberg

After US, France introduces tougher immigration bill

The French immigration bill makes the illegal crossing of borders an offence punishable by one year in jail and fines, doubles the time that illegal migrants can be detained for

Paris: 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 shrink qualifications for asylum, and which human rights organizations are casting as repressive.

The government presented the bill on 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 on 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 neighbours since the country’s existing rules are “much more favourable" 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 offence 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% of the respondents didn’t believe the government would be able to reform the immigration laws while a BVA poll this month showed 63% of respondents say there are too many immigrants in France. Bloomberg

Helene Fouquet

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