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France lower house passes controversial immigration bill

[JURIST] France's National Assembly [official website, in French], the lower house of the French parliament, passed a new immigration bill [dossier and materials, in French; JURIST report] aimed at increasing the ratio of skilled to unskilled immigrants entering France by a 91-45 vote Thursday. The bill has sparked controversy, both in France and abroad, for a provision that permits officials to test the DNA of an applicant seeking to rejoin family in France if immigration officials doubt the veracity of the application. Another provision requires applicants to prove financial security and take a test on French language and culture as a condition of immigration.

The bill follows a campaign promise by French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile] to toughen the country's immigration policy, a move already begun by the introduction of deportation quotas seeking to expel 25,000 illegal immigrants in 2007. Prior to assuming the presidency [JURIST report], Sarkozy also took a tough stance on immigration while serving as interior minister. In February 2006, he proposed legislation [JURIST report] to enable the government to expel immigrants who did not make sufficient efforts to integrate in French society and seek work. In June 2006, the French parliament passed a conservative immigration bill [JURIST report] that tightened restrictions on unskilled, non-EU immigrants and required immigrants to sign a pledge to learn French and to abide by French law. In September 2006, Sarkozy announced that France had granted amnesty [JURIST report] to 6,924 illegal immigrants with school-age children, even though thousands more had applied. The move was criticized as "totally arbitrary" - an assertion that Sarkozy denied.

The current bill is now before the Senate [official website] for debate, and will be voted on sometime next month. EU Observer has more.

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