A controversial bill to reform French migration policy was presented to the Council of Ministers Wednesday, February 1st, eliciting criticism from both the Left and the Right. The 2023 Immigration Act aims to simultaneously streamline the deportation process and present pathways for regularisation to France’s estimated 400,000 undocumented migrants, according to reporting by Le Monde.
The legislation allows for the swifter deportation of individuals deemed a ‘serious threat’ to French security and for the issuing of residence permits to undocumented individuals, already residing in the country for three years, working in industries suffering from labour shortages. The government has not yet clarified which sectors should be included in the scheme, complicated by new regulations in the bill that prevent the administrative detention of children under 16 by asylum services.
Foreigners with criminal sentences longer than 10 years will face having their deportations fast-tracked, in particular when matters of public safety or national security are at risk.
It is also proposed to reduce the number of maximum appeals on deportation orders from 12 to four to mitigate the current administrative backlogs. The bill also legislates for the increased use of single-judge courts when it comes to asylum cases, as well as the creation of regional bodies rather than the current centralised system operating out of Paris.
An additional clause in the text calls for the creation of a new multiyear residence permit for those in the medical professions qualified outside of the EU. Resident permits will also depend on the applicant’s level of French, to promote integration.
Gérald Darmanin, French Minister of the Interior, announced the bill in June which then generated much media and political speculation over the exact nature of the text. While many within the political Left and pro-immigration NGOs object to expediting deportations, the interim leader of Les Républicains, Annie Genevard, denounced the proposed measures as rewarding illegal immigration.
Some political commentators have described the bill’s language as an attempt to placate both the political Left and the Right in an attempt to secure a working majority with government officials even describing it as ideologically “unbalanced.”
Last month in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne promised to balance both firmness and humanity when framing the legislation. The proposals have, however, been criticised by opposition leader Marine Le Pen who labelled the reforms as “useless.”
French leftist groups have already called for demonstrations in central Paris against the proposed legislation, gathering Wednesday outside government offices. These demonstrations come as France has already been hit by nationwide protests around Macron’s attempts to reform the state’s pension system.
In 2018, Macron was able to pass similar reforms to cut down on the processing times required to deport asylum seekers. In 2022, France received 131,000 asylum applications, approaching records set before the pandemic.
After being presented Wednesday to the Council of Ministers, the bill will be introduced to the French Senate this month before being voted on in the National Assembly in the spring.