The government of French President Emmanuel Macron is cracking down on illegal immigration with a new bill that would allow migrants to be detained for 90 days, double the current holding period.
The bill will also make an illegal border crossing a criminal offence and punishable by up to a year in jail.
Human rights groups have criticised Macron’s plan, arguing that the law will target asylum-seekers and makes it more difficult to defend their rights.
The plan, which will be debated in the parliament in April, will reduce France’s “consideration period” for an asylum application from one year to six months.
Interior minister Gérard Collomb insists the plan is balanced and in line with European procedures, but local human rights groups plan to organise protests in Paris to officially denounce the new “governmental policies that infringe on the freedoms of migrants.”
The bill is proving to be one of the most divisive of Macron’s presidency and is proving to be contentious amongst Macron’s own insiders. The centrist parliament has deep roots in both the left and the right and has stayed relatively in synch, outside of the immigration issue.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of French voters believe there are too many migrants in the country. More than 100,000 people applied for asylum in France last year, up 17% from 2016. 36% of those who applied were granted refugee status.