France approves new immigration bill

On 22 April, France’s National Assembly passed an immigration bill that speeds up the asylum process, accelerates deportations, and introduces a one-year prison sentence for entering France illegally.

Summarising the draft bill a week before it was passed, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it should get the country “out of the situation where we badly welcome those to whom we owe the reception, and where we do not send away those who have no right to stay in France.”

One of the bill’s objectives is to see the legal detention period of up to 135 days for those who have been refused asylum.

Another aim is to shorten the time frame in which a migrant can apply for asylum after arriving in France from 120 to 90 days.

Rejected asylum seekers will no longer be able to apply for another residence permit and they only have 15 days to appeal the decision, and are to be provided with financial assistance if they say they voluntarily want to return home.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb claimed the bill aims for “better controlled” immigration, halving the waiting time for asylum applications to six months while also making it easier to deport those turned down as “economic” migrants.

Left-wing opponents complained about plans to cut the time within which asylum seekers can appeal if rejected for refugee status from four weeks to two, saying they would not have enough time to defend their claim.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says shortening asylum application deadlines could negatively impact the “most vulnerable asylum seekers, who would be the ones most likely to miss the deadline.”

France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, an increase for the third consecutive year, even though the number across Europe has dropped. Current opinion polls show voters supporting stricter immigration rules.

As MPs debated the bill over the weekend, around 100 activists from the far-right Generation Identity, made up mainly of French nationals but also including Italians, Hungarians, Danes, Austrians, English and Germans set up a symbolic plastic mesh barrier at a crossing point in the Alps used by refugees to enter from Italy.

The activists waved flags marked “Defend Europe” and placed a banner over the side of a mountain a few miles from the Italian border reading in English: “Border closed. You will not make Europe home. No way. Back to your homeland.”


Homeless African migrants sitting on benches near an urban migrant camp on the ring road in northern Paris, May 5, 2017.

TMP – 31/05/2018

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