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France lawmakers mulling controversial immigration bill

France's National Assembly [official website, in French] began considering [session summary, in French] Tuesday a new bill [No. 2400 text, in French] that would would make it easier to deport illegal immigrants and strip immigrants accused of violent crimes of their French citizenship. The proposal, which supporters argue will help decrease crime [WP report] in the country, targets immigrants facing murder or other violent charges within 10 years of gaining French citizenship. The bill would also make it easier for French authorities to deport both EU-citizens and non-citizens [France 24 report] who have been in France for more than three months, but less than three years, for lesser crimes like "theft or aggressive begging" and would give local authorities greater power to dismantle and evacuate illegal settlements. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] criticized the bill, urging the French government to reject the proposal because it targets minority populations [news release], particularly the Roma [JURIST news archive]. The open session discussion of the bill will continue through October 12 [legislative materials, in French].

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged EU members to stop forcibly deporting [JURIST report] Roma migrants to Kosovo. AI believes that Roma, as well as other ethnic minority groups, could face persecution or violence upon their return. Earlier this month, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding [official profile] threatened legal action [JURIST report] against France for its deportation of Roma, calling the initiative "a disgrace." Also this month, more than 100,000 people in 130 cities across France protested the security policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], including his decision to deport [JURIST reports] the illegal Roma. However, such policies [JURIST comment] are not new for France. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] unveiled a review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The report raised questions about draft legislation that would strip naturalized citizens of citizenship for committing certain crimes and the decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments.

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