French government vows to fight on after immigration bill rejection

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French government vows to fight on after immigration bill rejection
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (C) speaks during a debate on the draft law to control immigration at the National Assembly in Paris on December 11, 2023. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

France's government insisted on Tuesday it would implement tough measures against illegal migrants as it battled a political crisis following the rejection of its flagship immigration bill in the lower house of parliament.


After a majority of deputés voted for a motion de rejet (motion of rejection) on the immigration bill Monday evening, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin offered to resign.

French President Emmanuel Macron rejected his offer, instead asking the interior minister to "submit proposals to move forward by overcoming this blockage and obtaining an effective law", a presidential official who asked not to be identified by name told AFP.

'Serious political crisis' - What next for the government after immigration bill failure?

French MPs did not even debate the highly contested immigration bill.

In total, 270 MPs supported the motion, submitted by Green party MPs, and 265 voted against it. The lower house of parliament had been set to begin debating the bill - and its nearly 2,600 amendments - on Monday.

The motion by the Greens passed after it won cross-party support from left-wing MPs as well as the centre right Republicans party and members of Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National.

On Tuesday morning, Macron held a crisis meeting with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and key ministers at the Elysee, deciding to maintain its bid to pass the bill and send the legislation back to a parliamentary committee, the government said.

According to a government source, Macron at a later cabinet meeting denounced the "cynicism" of members of the opposition, accusing them of seeking to "obstruct the country."

"We need a law on integration and immigration," Macron was quoted as saying.

After the bill was thrown out MPs and the leaders of several opposition parties began calling for Darmanin's resignation.

Hard left Jean Luc Mélenchon said: "It feels like the end of the road for the bill and for him."

Far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen said she was "delighted" with the result, saying it had "protected the French from a migratory tidal wave".

Darmanin himself admitted it was a failure and stressed the importance of the bill.

"I want to give the police, the gendarmes, the prefects, the magistrates the means to fight against irregular immigration," he told TF1 television channel.

READ MORE: What's the latest on France's new immigration law?

What is next?

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne held an emergency meeting involving several ministers and lawmakers on Monday evening, but as of Tuesday morning it was unclear which path Macron's government would take.

According to reporting by French daily Le Parisien, there are three possible scenarios. 

The first option - considered to be the most 'radical' by political commentators - would be for the government to withdraw the bill entirely, which left-wing MPs had been calling for.

The second option would be to send it back to the Senate, where right-wing lawmakers have a majority. If this were to happen the Senate would debate - and potentially amend - the bill once again. Afterwards, the text would return to the Assemblée Nationale.


The third option involves sending the bill to the joint Senate-Assemblée committee (the commission mixte paritaire or the 'CMP') which is made up of seven National Assembly MPs and seven senators. The CMP would re-examine it to try to find some compromise on the basis of the bill that was adopted by the Senate in mid-November.

Olivier Faure, the head of the Socialist Party, told Franceinfo on Tuesday morning that he hoped the government would "draw the right conclusions and [withdraw] the text definitively". 

The former head of the Constitutional Council, Jean-Éric Schoettl, told Le Point magazine that if the bill goes back to the CMP, the resulting text could end up closer to that which was originally passed by the senate, as it "the CMP is more right-wing than the Assemblée".


In its current form, the bill aims to speed up asylum application procedures, facilitate the expulsion of foreigners deemed dangerous and regularise the status of undocumented workers in sectors with labour shortages.

It also would introduce an annual quota for the number of migrant arrivals to be set by parliament, and remove all but emergency medical coverage for undocumented people.


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