France wants to tighten immigration and asylum laws

France wants to tighten immigration and asylum laws

Elizabeth Borne

“It is legitimate to say in migration policy who we want and can take in and who we don’t want and can’t take in.”

(Photo: IMAGO/IP3press)

Paris While the federal government and opposition in Berlin are arguing about a new citizenship law, France immigration policy under scrutiny. The Government of President Emmanuel Macron presented on Tuesday the cornerstones of a reform that provides for more harshness in deportations and more speed in asylum procedures.

Macron’s Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne told the National Assembly in Paris that “relentless” action will be taken when expelling migrants who have committed a crime. At the same time, foreigners who have so far been working without a work permit in sectors such as gastronomy or construction should be given the chance of a permanent right to stay.

Borne made it clear that persecuted people would continue to be admitted. “France will remain true to its tradition of granting asylum,” she said.

“But it is legitimate to say in migration policy who we want and can take in and who we don’t want and can’t take in.” Total isolation is just as unrealistic as “deregulated immigration”.

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With the reform, Macron’s center coalition, which has not had its own majority in parliament since the summer, is attempting a balancing act. The government is trying to distance itself from both the right-wing Rassemblement National party and the left-wing camp with the Indomitable France party, the Greens and the Socialists. Borne spoke of a “balanced” project that combines “efficiency and humanity”.

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The bottom line is that the French government is taking a right turn on migration policy. Macron’s goal is apparently to get the reform through parliament with the support of the middle-class conservative opposition.

Duration of the asylum procedure should be halved

Immigration policy is very controversial in France, and the Rassemblement National in particular is trying to use the topic for itself with xenophobic tones. The debate about deportations last boiled up in October after the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in Paris. The alleged perpetrator, an Algerian, was in France illegally.

Borne said the “key challenge” was those migrants who were in France without a right to stay. They are often “victims of gangs of people smugglers who have promised them an Eldorado”. But it is not uncommon for them to live in precarious circumstances or slip into crime.

The government’s goal is to halve the length of the asylum procedure from the current average of one year to six months. The possibilities of appealing against a negative asylum decision should be limited.

Migrants without a right to stay should be “systematically” expelled, said the prime minister. Foreigners should also be able to lose a residence permit more easily if they commit a crime. At the EU level, Paris wants to push for more controls at the external borders, a strengthening of the border protection agency Frontex and a standardization of asylum law.

Knowledge of French as a prerequisite

At the same time, Macron’s government wants to better integrate migrants with the prospect of staying – and is relying on the labor market. To this end, the list of occupations with a shortage of skilled workers is to be expanded to include activities in the catering trade, in logistics or in construction. It is precisely these sectors in which migrants work without valid work and residence permits.

The French government wants to give them the right to stay. However, language skills are an important prerequisite: for residence permits of more than one year, foreigners from non-EU countries must be able to demonstrate a “minimum level of French” in a test, according to the plans.

Macron’s government plans to present a detailed draft law early next year. The immigration reform is then to be passed by Parliament in the spring.

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