French MPs vote to strip immigrant criminals of citizenship
Lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill to strip foreign-born criminals of their French nationality and expel EU citizens for certain crimes, part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's law and order crackdown.
Members of the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, passed the measure after a first reading by 294 votes to 239 in a vote overshadowed by mass strikes and demonstrations against Sarkozy's pensions reforms.
The law would strip French nationality from foreigners who had acquired citizenship and who were convicted of violent crimes against police and other officials. This punishment currently applies only to terrorism charges.
It would also allow police to deport foreign nationals, including those from other European Union countries, for repeated acts of theft, aggressive begging or for illegally occupying land.
Sarkozy's government drew condemnation from EU officials and UN experts in recent months for rounding up hundreds of members of the Roma minority from illegal camps and deporting them to Romania and Bulgaria.
The French bill does not specifically mention Roma but critics and political opponents say the crime crackdown is a vote-grabbing move that stigmatises them and other foreigners.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson, the architect of the bill, hailed the vote, calling it "a big first step in the building of a European immigration policy", a common approach that several countries have called for.
Sarkozy announced his law and order drive in July after violent city riots.
The bill must be examined by a parliamentary commission before it can be voted into law.
© 2010 AFP