Rights groups slam plans for immigrant DNA tests

14th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

14 September 2007, PARIS (AFP) - French rights groups and left-wing politicians Thursday slammed an amendment to a new immigration bill that would introduce DNA testing for would-be immigrants seeking to join their relatives in France.

14 September 2007

PARIS (AFP) - French rights groups and left-wing politicians Thursday slammed an amendment to a new immigration bill that would introduce DNA testing for would-be immigrants seeking to join their relatives in France.

The National Assembly's legislative committee Wednesday approved an amendment that would offer long-term visa applicants the option of a DNA test to prove their family ties.

The amendment's author Thierry Mariani, a deputy from President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, says it aims to root out bogus visa requests, arguing that in parts of Africa up to 80 percent of identity papers submitted by applicants were fake.

He says the tests would be a voluntary way to speed up visa procedures for immigrants' relatives.

But Socialist deputy George Pau-Langevin, the only black MP from mainland France, called the plans "unacceptable."

"This is a significant and unacceptable step in the violation of the right to a private family life, out of all proportion with the goal of fighting paperwork fraud," she said. "Would we consider doing the same for French people?"

The far-left Revolutionary Communist League issued a statement calling the plans "racist" and "disgraceful" and called for a day of protest outside parliament on Wednesday, when the bill comes up for debate.

The Human Rights League said the amendment "goes one step further in breaking with common law and the principles of the republic," pointing out that French law bans the genetic study of an individual except for medical or scientific purposes.

Laurent Giovannoni, of the Cimade advocacy group, said he was "outraged" by the plans, while Nathalie Ferre of the GISTI group said they were a "travesty of a law intended to prove a family link, not undo it."

Socialist deputies have also warned that DNA testing would not take account of adopted children, common in many developing countries, while several ruling party deputies have also questioned its legality.

Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux said Thursday that "no subject should be taboo" in the debate on immigration, and that he welcomed the chance for a parliamentary debate on the question of DNA testing.

"Eleven countries already practice them" in Europe, he said, adding that the tests would be "offered on a voluntary basis, not imposed."

According to Mariani's report, DNA testing for would-be immigrants is used in Austria, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

If in "serious doubt" about a visa application, the French text stipulates, consular officials would be able to offer the applicant a DNA test, at his own expense, to prove his family ties with a French resident.

Drawn up by Hortefeux, the government's immigration bill aims to tighten the conditions of entry for foreigners' families in line with a campaign pledge by Sarkozy.

AFP

Subject: French news

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