French Parliament examines controversial immigration bill

PARIS, France’s Parliament began on Monday debating a controversial draft bill that would significantly modify the conditions for migrants and asylum-seekers here and shorten timelines for migrants to seek political or humanitarian refuge here.

The bill, sponsored by Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, is meeting with sharp criticism from humanitarian organisations but also from some deputies in Collomb’s own “Republic on the Move (LREM)” party, which was created by President Emmanuel Macron.

Collomb argues that the worsening situation with migration, and a sharp increase in refugees into Europe from conflict zones, necessitates a revamping of the system, which is being overwhelmed.

He says he is in favour of legitimate asylum in France but that economic refugees are also flooding in to Europe, which is unable to absorb them.

He proposes to shorten response periods from authorities for asylum seekers or people who have suffered persecution and risk death or repression in their countries.

An answer should be given to applicants within six months, instead of more than a yar in existing cases, the government says.

But under the proposed law, newly-arrived migrants would have only three months to apply for asylum instead of four months under the current system.

Human rights bodies here, like “Human Rights Watch,” maintain this shortening of the deadlines for migrants would prevent some from getting bureaucratically heavy applications in to authorities on time and would deprive them of legal assistance.

Also, appeals against refusal of asylum are normally treated within six months, but the new law would speed up this process and handle appeals in 15 days, which would also speed up expulsion of those rejected, who may need more time to get legal assistance and provide material proof that was missing initially.

Last year about 17 percent of these appeals were granted out of over 53,500 cases, according to Migration Office sources, and more time is needed to handle such cases, HRW argues.

The new legislation, which is likely to be hotly and lengthily debated in Parliament, with over 1,000 amendments proposed, also envisages modifications to expulsion rules for those on appeal and would refuse some migrants the right to remain in France pending an appeal.

Currently, migrants have an “automatic” right to remain here while their appeal is being processed.

The Interior Minister is also proposing that migrants could be held for up to 90 days in administrative detention, instead of the current level of 45 days, after which they must be deported.

The bill would thus increase the maximum administrative detention period in France for those awaiting deportation, a situation human rights advocates say is excessively long, although several EU nations hold migrants in detention for up to 18 months.

Source: Kuwait News Agency