How Macron’s new immigration bill affects refugees and asylum seekers

On Monday 23 April, after 60 hours of debate and amendments, France’s National Assembly passed a controversial immigration reform law. The bill, which French President Emmanuel Macron believes will make the French asylum system more effective, has drawn criticism – including from members of Macron’s own party.

Under the new legislation, people found to have entered France unlawfully could face up to one year in prison, while asylum seekers would have just two weeks to appeal the decision on their case if their claim is rejected.

Once their claim is rejected, a failed asylum seeker would potentially be held for up to 90 days before deportation – as opposed to the current period of 45 days. Macron’s La Republique En Marche Party (LREM) initially proposed to increase the detention period to 135 days.

The bill would also reduce the period in which people have to claim asylum after entering French territory down from 120 days to 90 days.

228 voted in favour of the new measure, with 139 voting against and 24 abstaining. Much of those voting in favour were part of LREM – though 14 of its lawmakers abstained and one, Jean-Michel Clément, quit in protest – the first such instance since Macron won the presidency.

“I am not sure we’re sending to world citizens the universal message that has always been ours,” Clement said in a statement after the vote.

Members of Macron’s government have argued that in making immigration laws more restrictive, LREM are helping to preemptively prevent far-right political groups from implementing more draconian measures further down the line.

“I fear that if we do not resolve the problem facing us… others will do it without any humanity,” said Interior Minister Gerard Collomb earlier this month, reported French broadcaster RFI.

Human rights organisations have denounced the bill, worrying that it will adversely affect some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“Under the guise of providing a more effective asylum system, the bill includes a series of measures that would diminish access to protection,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement.

Amnesty International France said that the bill was “dangerous” for migrants and asylum seekers, and that it “failed to address difficulties facing migrants and asylum seekers in France”.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration where it will be debated in June.

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