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France sticks to plan to strip terrorists' passports

The Local/AFP · 23 Dec 2015, 12:56

Published: 23 Dec 2015 12:56 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Dec 2015 12:56 GMT+01:00

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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls outlined government reform proposals on Wednesday that could see the state of emergency called after last month's Paris attacks, enshrined in the constitution.

And after appearing to have dropped the issue amid growing opposition among Socialist MPs,  the government finally decided to include the power to strip French citizenship from people convicted of terrorist offences, if they have another nationality.

It appears fears opposition MPs would not back his reform led to the last-minute change of heart.

"The threat has never been higher," Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters following a meeting of government ministers on Wednesday.

"We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam," he said.

The current law allows dual nationals naturalized in France to have their French citizenship revoked if they are guilty of terror offences, but it doesn't apply to dual nationals born in the country.

There are an estimated 3.5 million French people with a second nationality in the country.

Days after the Paris terror attacks in which 130 were murdered, Hollande told MPs he wanted that power extended and enshrined in the constitution so it could not be challenged.

On Tuesday Justice Minister Christiane Taubira suggested the president had agreed to ditch the proposal during a radio interview.

There had been fears on the left that this would lead to discrimination against people with dual nationalities. 

But despite growing opposition from Socialist MPs and the PM himself admitting it would do little to help the fight against terrorism, the measure was included on Wednesday in the planned reform of the constitution.

(Protesters demonstrate against ban on marches during state of emergency. Photo: AFP)

The apparent double U-turn may have come about after it emerged that without the inclusion of a measure that had been championed by the right, Hollande might not win enough support from opposition MPs to bring about a change in the constitution. 

Laurent Wauquiez, Nicolas Sarkozy's number two in the Republicans party said the reform was an "empty shell" now that the plan to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality had been ditched.

Any change to France's constitution must be backed by a three fifths majority.

The proposals will be debated by MPs in February. 

Emergency policing powers used under the state of emergency -- such as house arrests and the right to raid houses without judicial oversight -- are currently based on a simple law, which can be challenged at the constitutional court.

But in the light of the November 13th attacks in Paris President François Hollande made it clear he wanted to special powers available under a state of emergency to be enshrined in the constitution.

(Photo: AFP)

Hollande wants the powers protected from further litigation by placing them in the constitution.

Since France declared a state of emergency hours after the attacks, the extra powers have proved to be effective, but not without their flaws. 

Story continues below…

The French government has regularly released stats, eager to demonstrate how their extended powers are being put to good use.

The latest update came on Wednesday with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealing that 2,800 raids and home searches had been carried out since November 13th. 

There have been 346 arrests, 360 people placed under house arrest, and 51 jailed, while 3,414 people have been turned away from France's borders because they posed a threat to national security. 

But there have been criticisms over the violence of police raids, as well as of cases of mistaken identity and of people losing their jobs because they were placed under house arrest.

There have also been numerous cases of environmental activists being targeted rather than potential terrorists.

Valls said on Wednesday the latest figures showed more than 1,000 people had left France to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq, of which an estimated 148 had died and 250 returned.

"Radicalised individuals from numerous countries join Daesh (the Arab acronym for the Islamic State group). There are many French speakers and we know that fighters group themselves according to language, to train and prepare terrorist actions on our soil," he said.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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