IMMIGRATIONStricter French Immigration Bill Causes Uproar

By Lisa Louis

Published 12 December 2023

President Emmanuel Macron wants to reform immigration law with stricter deportation measures. But migrants and refugees in France protesting against the reform say the severity of the new measures is unprecedented.

Thousands of people marched in the streets near Montparnasse train station in southern Paris on a recent Sunday afternoon. They were holding signs proclaiming their opposition to the “Darmanin law,” named after France’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin. Other placards said “Immigration is not a problem ― racism is.”

Right at the front of the group, a megaphone in hand, was Ahmada Siby.

The 33-year-old Malian arrived in France almost five years ago. Benefiting from a legal loophole, he has been using other people’s papers to work as a cleaner, a chambermaid and, lately, a dishwasher.

“We Are Doing All the Dirty Work’
Most of us undocumented immigrants are using this method, but it means we are paying social insurance fees and taxes without benefiting from services such as regular public health care like French citizens,” he told DW.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government treats us as if we were nothing, although we’re doing all the dirty work ― at construction sites, including the ones for the Paris Olympics next summer, in restaurants and as cleaners,” he added.

That’s why Siby and others have banded together to protest the bill, which France’s government said is a compromise including left-wing and right-wing measures.

Deportations Easier, Family Reunification Harder
The draft law is set to be discussed in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, starting on December 11, and could enter into force early next year.

The final version of the immigration bill still needs to be pinned down, but some details are already known.

The new bill is likely to fast-track asylum procedures and shorten delays for appeals, make family reunification more complicated and restrict the possibility to come to France for medical treatment. Changes also include the option of deporting people who were younger than 13 when they came to France, and deporting foreign parents whose children have French citizenship.

Paris was planning to create a one-year green card for people working in sectors with a labor shortage. But as it stands now, the decisions on these one-year permits have been left up to local authorities.

Interior Minister Darmanin brought the immigration reform bill into the Senate, but France’s upper house of parliament, which has a center-right majority, recently toughened the draft considerably. And the government is expected to keep some of these changes to get the bill through the National Assembly. Macron’s Renaissance party and its allies don’t have an absolute majority there, and need the support of the conservative Republicans.