French cabinet to table new, 'balanced' immigration legislation


With plans for the expulsion of "delinquent foreigners," the overhaul of France's asylum system, and an effort to bring some undocumented workers in from the cold, the French government's latest immigration bill will be presented to the cabinet this week.

The 2023 immigration bill – due to be presented to cabinet on Wednesday – will open the debate on a highly inflammatory subject. The legislation is likely to come up against the uncompromising position of France's right-wing parties. 

In the midst of public dissatisfaction over controversial pension reforms, the French government is set to table another burning issue at the council of ministers this week.

The text of the bill provides for a series of measures to facilitate expulsions, especially of "delinquent" foreigners, a "structural" reform of the asylum system, and a mechanism to integrate certain undocumented workers.

Wooing the centre-right

The French government has praised the draft bill for its "balance" in trying to control immigration while also improving integration.

It is due to pass through the Senate in March. The upper house is currently under the control the right wing Les Républicains party that is hostile to the project.

The legislation will then be presented to the National Assembly before the summer.

By sending the bill through the upper house of the French parliament first, the government of President Macron is indicating that it needs the Républicain's approval if the law is to be passed. 

At the end of December, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin stated that "everything that [Les Républicains] have always asked for, we are proposing."

Speaking last Thursday after the annual publication of France's immigration statistics, Darmanin underlined that the current administration has prioritised dealing with foreign offenders, saying "3,615 foreign offenders were expelled in 2022 ... twice as many as in 2021."

Feeding far-right ideology

According to Les Républicains' leader Eric Ciotti, some measures in the bill – including those favouring expulsions – "go in the right direction but are largely insufficient."

On 18 January Ciotti said that he would vote against the proposed legislation as he feels the government is just "pretending to impose firmer measures".

However, Fanélie Carrey-Conte, secretary general of La Cimade NGO that took part in government consultations on the legislation in December says her organisation has a problem with "the overall philosophy of the text", which she maintains reflects "a logic of stigmatisation of the foreign population and which conflates foreigners and criminals."

Carrey-Conte believes the bill "feeds the ideas of the extreme right by responding to their terrain.

"Our fear is that the text will be even tougher when it comes out of parliament".