Deputies discuss tougher immigration rules
18 September 2007, PARIS (AFP) - The French National Assembly opened debate Tuesday on a government bill toughening the rules for immigration, amid controversy over a clause which opens the way for DNA testing of applicants.
18 September 2007
PARIS (AFP) - The French National Assembly opened debate Tuesday on a government bill toughening the rules for immigration, amid controversy over a clause which opens the way for DNA testing of applicants.
Drawn up by Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, the bill imposes new conditions for relatives wishing to join families in France, including knowledge of the French language and proof of financial resources.
But attention focussed on an amendment introduced during the committee stage of the bill's passage through parliament, which would authorise genetic tests to provide evidence of kinship.
The amendment's backers in the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party say voluntary DNA tests would be useful for families wishing to accelerate the application process, and argue that 11 other countries in the EU already use them.
But the left-wing opposition and many rights groups believe the effect of the bill would be to make DNA tests the general rule, which would exclude many families unable to bear the financial cost.
Others argue that it unfairly limits the family to those who are genetically linked and discriminates against the wider kinship structures that are common in many African countries.
The government was itself divided on the amendment, with Housing and Towns Minister Fadela Amara saying on Sunday that she opposes DNA tests because they "heap opprobrium on those who wish to come here."
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former international charity chief, said: "I do not like the idea, but nor does it make me indignant."
The head of the UMP group in the Assembly, Jean-Francois Cope, said the party had yet to define a common position on the clause, which was introduced by a private member.
"We need to hear the debate in parliament. That'll give us more than a day to evaluate the whole of the issue and look at its various aspects ... Only when debate has taken place will a line emerge and the government express its views on the amendment," Cope said.
The Socialist Party (PS) said it would seek a ruling from the National Consultative Bioethics Committee (CCNE) on the amendment.
The CCNE, which advises on ethical issues, has no power to enforce its decisions, but it would be hard for the government to ignore a negative ruling.
An opinion poll showed that a large majority of the public wants tougher rules to control immigration.
Seventy-four percent were in favour of immigration quotas, and the same amount supported limiting the right to come to France to those who understand French, according to the OpinionWay survey in Le Figaro newspaper.
Eighty-seven percent were opposed to a blanket regularisation of illegal immigrants, who are estimated to number between 200,000 and 400,000 in France.
The French government aims to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants before the end of the year.
Subject: French news