SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

France adopts controversial asylum and immigration law

France's parliament Wednesday signed into law a controversial asylum and immigration bill -- despite opposition on the left which decried an effort to limit arrivals while the far right saw the measure as not going far enough.

France adopts controversial asylum and immigration law
Photo: AFP
The bill is designed to accelerate asylum procedures by cutting the maximum processing time to 90 days after entering France from 120 currently.
   
The text was adopted on a final reading by 100 votes in favour to 25 against with 11 abstentions.
   
The senate had rejected the bill on Tuesday, but the lower house passed the text as President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche party holds a large majority, even if the law has exposed divisions within his own camp.
 
As well as slimming down the time taken to overcome administrative hurdles the text cuts to six months, from 11, the time limit to make an asylum claim while facilitating both the expulsion of those rejected and the acceptance of those whose bid succeeds.
 
READ ALSO:
Photo: AFP
   
“We are giving ourselves the means of preserving a right to asylum which, had nothing been done, could rapidly have been called into question as one fears may happen in a number of European countries,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told parliament.
   
But the extent of the doubts harboured by some lawmakers had already been laid bare by one member of Macron's party — former Socialist Party MP Jean-Michel Clement — who left the party after voting against the text on an earlier reading for the first time in the assembly since the president's election 15 months ago.
   
The government insists the law, as Europe struggles to find common ground on how to deal with the ongoing migration crisis, will allow “controlled immigration, an effective right to asylum and successful integration” of those accepted.
   
Some lawmakers on the left lamented what they saw as a move to limit the scope of asylum cases and decried the law's doubling of maximum detention from 45 days to 90, concerned at the possibility of “children behind bars” for up to three months.
   
By contrast, some on the right slammed the text as “lax” and a “little law” which they feared would ultimately see more migrants obtain legal status in France.
   
With the migration crisis leading to deep splits across Europe, despite arrivals falling sharply since the summer of 2015, France and Italy in June urged the European Union to set up asylum processing centres in Africa to prevent “voyages of death” across the Mediterranean.
   
The EU's current asylum rules put the migrant burden on their port of entry to Europe — with Italy and Greece most seriously affected, although arrivals have also been on the increase in Spain in recent months.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

SHOW COMMENTS