By Will Racke
France’s government proposed Wednesday an asylum reform bill that would make it easier for authorities to deport unauthorized migrants, drawing criticism from immigration activists who say it violates the rights of asylum seekers.
The measure would allow the government to hold migrants in France illegally in detention centers for up to 90 days, instead of the current 45, and half the amount of time for considering an asylum claim, from about one year to six months.
It would also stiffen penalties for illegally crossing the European Union free travel border, with jail time and a fine of up to $4,600 prescribed for border jumpers.
The proposal is aimed at streamlining the asylum process and filtering out applicants who clearly don’t qualify for protections under French law. In 2017, 100,000 migrants requested asylum in France — 17 percent more than the previous year — and another 85,000 were turned away at the border, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The bill’s sponsors say it is in line with French President Emmanuel Macron’s promises to balance “efficiency” with “humanity” in the country’s immigration policies. Aside from the enforcement provisions, the measure seeks to expand programs for foreign students, researchers and entrepreneurs, while boosting language training and work opportunities for accepted asylees.
“It’s a well-balanced law, in line with European law above all, and it is absolutely necessary that countries like Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden have the same type of procedures,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told a press conference, according to Agence France-Presse.
French immigrant rights groups are denouncing the proposal as overly punitive, and some lawmakers from Macron’s own centrist République en Marche group in the National Assembly say they could abstain from voting for the bill if it isn’t changed.
Still, Collomb expressed confidence the bill would pass without too much difficulty.
“I’ve no concerns about the majority,: he said. “I think everyone will realize we have a balanced bill.”