France’s National Assembly approves controversial immigration bill

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Paris, April 23 (IANS) The French National Assembly has passed a tough immigration reform bill that shortens asylum application deadlines, doubles the time for which illegal migrants can be detained and introduces a one-year prison sentence for entering France illegally.

The bill was passed on Sunday by 228 votes to 139, with 24 abstentions, after over 60 hours of debate and hundreds of amendments, the BBC reported on Monday.

President Emmanuel Macron’s governing centrist party La République en Marche said the bill will speed up the process of claiming asylum. But opposition figures and human rights groups said the measures go too far.

Only one member of Macron’s party, Jean-Michel Clément, voted against the legislation. “I am not sure we’re sending to world citizens the universal message that has always been ours,” he said after the vote. He later announced he was leaving the parliamentary group.

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The main aim of the law is to cut the length of asylum applications and make the deportation system more efficient for those rejected, the report said. Refugees given asylum will be given greater help with integration and learning French.

One of the most significant changes is that failed asylum seekers awaiting deportation can be held for up to 90 days, double the existing period of 45 days. The government had initially aimed for a 135-day period. Opponents protested to the reform, saying that that migrants were being treated like criminals.

According to the bill, children can also be kept in detention with their families, although officials agreed to set up a working group to look into the issue.

Additionally, it reduces the time that asylum seekers have to submit their application from 120 to 90 days and gives them only two weeks to appeal if rejected.

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Human Rights Watch said shortening asylum application deadlines could negatively impact the “most vulnerable asylum seekers, who would be the ones most likely to miss the deadline”.

Left-wing parties said they were deeply opposed to the changes and the right-wing Republicans joined them. The far-right National Front backed some of the measures. The bill will now be debated in the Upper House, the Senate, in June.

–IANS

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