French President Emmanuel Macron's government yesterday presented a bill to enforce tougher immigration rules, which human rights organizations criticize as repressive toward asylum-seekers. The government said the bill, presented at a Cabinet meeting, aims at accelerating expulsion of people who don't qualify for asylum. It also wants to provide better conditions for those allowed to stay in the country, such as offering more French classes and job training.
Interior minister Gerard Collomb says the plan is "balanced" and "is aligned with European procedures."
The plan will reduce the period of application for asylum to a maximum of six months, down from about one year including appeal.
NGOs have lashed out in particular at plans to double the time asylum seekers can be held in detention to 90 days and halve the amount of the time they have to appeal if turned down for refugee status. "We're asking for it to be withdrawn," the Cimade migrants' charity said of the bill, as reported by AFP. "We're not even in favor of fighting for changes to the bill, because the philosophy behind it is just too repressive."
The plan would also allow authorities to hold migrants who are staying illegally in the country in closed centers for up to 90 days instead of the current 45, in order to organize their deportation.
Under the bill, people illegally crossing borders of the EU travel-free zone will be fined 3,750 euros ($ .)
Some organizations helping migrants, including the French Human Rights League, have called on street protests in Paris Wednesday to denounce "governmental policies that infringe on migrants' freedoms."
Official figures show that more than 100,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2017, up 17 percent from the year before. The largest number of asylum requests came from people from Albania, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan. About 36 percent of applicants were granted refugee status. The bill is to be debated at Parliament in April.
Liberation newspaper noted that while polls showed voters backing tougher laws the relocation of thousands of migrants to towns and villages nationwide in 2016 went off largely without hitch. "The French say they are worried, wary and want conservative migration policies. But once they get to know refugees they also want them to be welcomed," the paper wrote in an editorial.