Deportation bill debate begins in France

November 07, 2023 04:53 am | Updated 04:53 am IST - Paris

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin passes a note as he sits in the hemicycle during a debate on the French Government’s immigration bill at the French Senate in Paris on November 6, 2023.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin passes a note as he sits in the hemicycle during a debate on the French Government’s immigration bill at the French Senate in Paris on November 6, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

Senators in France were set on November 6 to start debating a bill that is intended to toughen the country’s immigration law but advocacy organisations have criticised as a threat to the rights of asylum-seekers and other migrants.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the legislation “is about being firm” on immigration. The bill especially is aimed at “being tougher on foreigners who commit crimes, expelling them all”, he said, speaking Sunday night on TV channel France 2.

The government said the measure would strengthen and accelerate the process for deporting foreigners who are regarded as “a serious threat to public order”.

At the same time, Mr. Darmanin, who is considered one of the most right-wing members of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, said the bill acknowledges people who entered France without authorization and “want to regularise”.

The legislation includes a provision that would give legal status under certain conditions to undocumented individuals working in specific sectors with labour shortages.

“There’s a political compromise to be found. What counts is the general interest,” Mr. Darmanin said.

The Senate debate is the first step in what is likely to be a long and difficult legislative journey. The bill already was postponed several times this year due to a lack of support from a Parliamentary majority.

The Upper House of Parliament is dominated by conservatives who are opposed to giving legal status to workers who entered France illegally, arguing the move would create a “pull effect” that encourages more migrants to come to France.

Speaking on France Inter radio, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Monday rejected the conservatives’ claim and said the provision would benefit “people who’ve been on our territory for years, who are well integrated”.

The debate on the bill also is expected to be heated next month at the Lower House of Parliament, the National Assembly, where Mr. Macron’s centrist alliance has the most seats but doesn’t have a majority. The bill would require the votes of conservatives lawmakers to get through.

Several non-governmental organisations have criticised the overall legislation as threatening migrants’ rights.

“The French authorities are trying again to put forward a deeply flawed set of immigration measures,” Eva Cosse, a senior Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a written statement.

“Dividing families and watering down rights for asylum-seekers is not the answer to the country’s security concerns.” The Human Rights League denounced the government’s proposed law as being based on “repressive views”.

“Migrants are dehumanised and considered as nothing more than potential labour, entitled only to precarious regularization offers,” the French association said.

Amnesty International France tweeted on X that it views the bill as “one more text that fails to adequately protect the rights of people living in exile, and may even deteriorate them”.

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