The French National Assembly passed late Sunday an immigration bill that streamlines the deportation process for failed asylum seekers, drawing protest from activist group that say it violates migrants’ rights.
The bill shortens asylum application deadlines and increases the amount of time authorities can detain illegal migrants. It also establishes a one-year prison sentence for entering France illegally.
Proposed earlier this year by French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling République en Marche, the measure seeks to speed up asylum decisions and filter out applicants who clearly don’t qualify for protections under French law. Such changes to France’s immigration system are needed to deal with continuing waves of asylum seekers and economic migrants, the bill’s proponents say.
Illegal immigration to France has spiked even as migration to Europe as a whole fell by half from 2016 to 2017. Last year, 100,000 migrants requested asylum in France — 17 percent more than in 2016 — and another 85,000 were turned away at the border.
French lawmakers debated over the weekend more than 1,000 proposed amendments to the bill, reports Agence France Presse. Despite pressure from far-left and right blocs, the centrist Republique en March coalition provided enough support to pass the measure by a comfortable margin: 228 votes in favor to 139 against, with 24 abstentions in total.
One of the most significant changes in the bill doubles the time that migrants awaiting deportation can be held, from 45 to 90 days. Some lawmakers had initially aimed for a 135-day period.
The bill also shortens the asylum application process, reducing the time that claimants have to apply from 120 days down to 90 says. Additionally, rejected application will have just two weeks to file an appear, down from four weeks currently.
Left-wing and human rights groups panned the compromise package, as did the right-wing National Front.
Shortening asylum application deadlines will hurt “most vulnerable asylum seekers, who would be the ones most likely to miss the deadline,” Human Rights Watch said.
“Under the guise of providing a more effective asylum system, the bill includes a series of measures that would diminish access to protection,” HRW’s France director Bénédicte Jeannerod said in a statement, according to the BBC.
The immigration restrictionist National Front backed some of the measures in the bill, but many of its members were unhappy with the final version, saying it didn’t go far enough to address France’s migrant crisis.
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