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France passes new immigration law, much tougher on citizenship and expulsions

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After several weeks of debates, negotiations, and tug-of-war in the Senate National Assembly, the “bill to control immigration and improve integration” was adopted by the French legislature on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, with 349 votes in favor and 186 against.

The new text, divided into 27 articles, includes a number of provisions aimed at tightening reception conditions, facilitating deportation, and “improving” the integration of workers in so-called high-pressure professions. The law has had a complex process and shows the end of the so-called political “Cordon sanitaire” vis-à-vis the Rassemblement National

The provisions of the law text

Here are the main provisions of the new text:

Stricter provisions:

  • Introduction of a mandatory annual debate on migration policy in Parliament and setting of annual immigration quotas;
  • Introduction of a condition of “respect for the principles of the Republic” in order to obtain a residence permit;
  • Addition of a one-year residence permit for undocumented immigrants who are victims of human traffickers and who have filed a complaint;
  • Retention of state medical assistance for illegal immigrants, after a heated debate over its abolition;
  • Extension to five years, from the current six months, of the period of legal residence in France required to be eligible for certain social benefits. These benefits will also be available to foreigners who have worked for at least 30 months;
  • Exclusion of foreign nationals subject to the obligation to leave French territory (OQTF) from the right to emergency housing, except in situations of severe hardship;
  • End of automatic right to French citizenship for children born in France to foreign parents. The opposite of Ius Soli;
    Addition of the obligation to present a clean criminal record when applying for family reunification;
  • Reinstatement of the crime of illegal residence (abolished in 2012), punishable by a fine of 3,750 euros and disqualification from French territory for three years;
  • Legalization of the expulsion of foreign nationals convicted of crimes and offenses punishable by three years’ imprisonment or more and constituting a serious threat to public order, as well as acts committed against an ascendant or elected representative;
  • Elimination of all exemptions from  OQTFs (deportation orders), except for minors;
  • Introduction of a mandatory OQTF for people whose asylum application has been rejected unless they have another reason to stay;
  • Introduction of forfeiture of nationality for anyone who has acquired French nationality and is found guilty of the intentional killing of a person in a position of public authority.

Provisions becoming more flexible:

  • Introduction of a “de jure” residence permit for undocumented immigrants in high-demand jobs, provided a “clean criminal record” is verified and the application is independent of the employer;
  • Reform of the National Asylum Court (CNDA), introducing the principle of decentralization and adjudication by a single judge instead of the current three;
  • Creation of regional “France Asile” centers to simplify the registration of asylum applications;
  • Ban on detention of foreign nationals under the age of 18. Adults accompanied by minors may be placed under house arrest.

The adoption of this bill led to strong protests from associations that protect undocumented migrants.

The end of the cordon sanitaire against the RN

The legislation was initially rejected in Parliament. Approval was possible with the support of the centrists of Les Republicines, but especially with that of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, with which the government had to come to terms.

This vote marked a major blow to the “Cordon sanitaire” policy, an idea aimed at isolating at the European level the ID group, of which RN is a member. It now opens up the possibility of a center-right majority in the next European parliament.

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