[JURIST] French Immigration Minister Eric Besson [official profile, in French] on Friday presented a bill that would create "transit zones" allowing the French government to immediately detain undocumented immigrants wherever they are found. According to Besson, the draft law [Le Monde report, in French] will allow the government to hold either a single individual or a group if they arrive outside a specified checkpoint. The legislation would also change the amount of time an immigrant has to challenge deportation from 30 days to 48 hours. Additionally, the bill would allow for a three year ban on returning to the country for those that are expelled, it would repeal the authority of certain judges to intervene in the cases dealing with the detention of illegal immigrants, and it would institute harsher fines and restrictions for employers who hire illegal workers. The bill is to be put before the Council of Ministers [official website, in French] in March.
French immigration laws have been the subject of controversy in recent years. In November 2008, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg [official profile] released a report saying that "French detention and immigration policies risk reducing human rights protection." On overall immigration policy, Hammarberg said [press release] that a French quota on irregular migrant worker expulsion was improper and that a permanent solution needs to be reached regarding the situation of minority Roma [JURIST news archive]. In September 2007, France's National Assembly [official website, in French] passed an immigration bill [materials, in French; JURIST report] that drew criticism because it permitted officials to test the DNA of an applicant seeking to rejoin family in France if immigration officials doubted the veracity of the application. 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