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French bill tightens immigration, targets employers

media Eric Besson presents the government's plan to ramp up immigration rules Reuters

The French government will further crack down on illegal immigration – and on those who employ foreigners without working permits, under a bill presented to cabinet by Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

The bill, the fifth aiming to tighten immigration laws in the last seven years, includes a move to increase the length of time immigrants without necessary papers can be held in detention from 32 days to 45.

After this time, authorities must make a decision on whether to expel them or further investigate their request for asylum.

It also postpones the moment that a judge can review their cases, leaving it up to an administrative official to make the first call on detention.

The contents of the bill have drawn criticism, with Patrick Henriot, deputy head of the magistrates’ union, telling French daily Le Monde it was “a serious assault on fundamental liberties”.

The push for change comes after judges in January chose to free, rather than detain, some 124 mainly Kurdish immigrants who arrived in Corsica in January.

Besson defended the push to extend the detention period, which will give authorities more time to check asylum demands. President Nicolas Sarkozy has given Besson's ministry the target of deporting 30,000 illegal immigrants this year,

In his presentation of the bill, Besson said the time period was “60 days in Portugal, six months in the Netherlands, Austria or Hungary, eight months in Belgium, 18 months in Germany, 24 months in Switzerland, and unlimited in Britain”.

Under the terms of the proposed law, anyone caught employing illegal immigrants will face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 15,000 euros.

The bill also calls for immigrants who want french nationality to adhere “to the essential principles and values of the republic” and requires people to sign a “charter of the rights and duties of the French citizen”.


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