New draft legislation to tighten asylum rules in France was passed by a large majority in the country’s lower house by 228-139, with 24 abstaining, on April 22. But the vote followed intense debate and disagreement within President Emmanuel Macron’s party.
One member of Macron’s party, Jean-Michel Clement, voted against the bill. “I am not sure we’re sending to world citizens the universal message that has always been ours,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, debates are due to follow in the upper house, the Senate, in June. The National Assembly will have the last word on the bill.
Embarrassingly for the government, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her fellow National Front lawmakers voted in favour of some of the bill’s articles.
The draft law, which was criticised by human rights groups and leftist parties, doubles to 90 days the time in which undocumented migrants can be detained, shortens deadlines to apply for asylum and makes the illegal crossing of borders an offence punishable by one year in jail and fines. The bill, however, will also make it easier for minors to apply for asylum.
In response to the passing of the bill, Cécile Coudriou, president of Amnesty International France, issued the following statement: “This bill, and the discussions around its text, fails to address the difficulties faced by migrants and asylum seekers in France and the need to fully respect their rights. Those drafting this bill missed numerous opportunities including putting an end to the detention of children and providing dignified protection for those fleeing war or persecution.
“As this bill goes forward for debate in France’s upper house, we will keep up the pressure to ensure that the rights and the dignity of men women and children who come to France seeking asylum are protected.”
In a separate report, Al Jazeera noted that the French government, which introduced the draft bill in February to fulfil an election promise, has proposed an amendment to soften legal provisions aimed at punishing traffickers and smugglers who profit from migrants in order to compensate non-profit groups that help defend or provide humanitarian aid to asylum seekers.
France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, an increase for the third consecutive year, even though the number across Europe fell.