French parliament approves DNA immigration bill

24th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

24 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - The French parliament on Tuesday definitively adopted an immigration bill that has sparked angry debate for introducing DNA testing of foreigners who want to join relatives in France.

24 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - The French parliament on Tuesday definitively adopted an immigration bill that has sparked angry debate for introducing DNA testing of foreigners who want to join relatives in France.

The Senate upper house approved the bill by 185 votes to 136 late Tuesday after it had scraped through earlier in the lower house.

The bill was adopted in the National Assembly by 282 votes to 235, just past the minimum threshold of 259 votes.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has faced street protests and opposition even within his own camp over the bill, which imposes new conditions for immigrants to be reunited with their families. They include possible DNA tests to prove their kinship.

The opposition Socialists voted unanimously against the bill, saying it sets a dangerous precedent by resorting to genetics to determine who gets a place in France, instead of human rights principles.

But Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux defended the bill before the National Assembly, saying it had been "caricatured" and had fallen victim to "political tactics" instead of "disagreements on principle."

Hortefeux pointed out that 12 European countries already allowed DNA testing of immigration applicants. The practice "will give foreigners of good faith a new right that will allow them to prove their affiliation, if they opt to do so," he added.

The Socialists and Communists reaffirmed they would ask the Constitutional Council, France's highest legal authority, to strike down the bill.

"This law violates the fundamental principles of the republic which do not define family and affiliation by biology," said Socialist deputy Arnaud Montebourg, a rising star in the party.

Montebourg warned that the bill would "create very serious grounds for discrimination" and bring France into a system of "biocontrol of individuals" where "genetics will be used as a tool of the administrative police."

A first version of the bill went before the cabinet in July, soon after Sarkozy took office on a platform that called for the tightening of immigration rules. That followed riots in 2005 that rocked the immigrant-heavy suburbs.

But the furore was ignited when an amendment introduced last month called for DNA tests of applicants. It prompted three former prime ministers and members of Sarkozy's governing rightwing party -- Edouard Balladur, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Dominique de Villepin -- to come out against the measure.

A leftist minister in the rightwing government, Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, called the DNA provision "disgusting" and threatened to resign over the government's immigration policies.

The government has been forced to make a series of concessions such as making the state pay for the procedure, restricting DNA testing to maternal affiliation and mandating a French court to decide whether tests are required.

But former Socialist justice minister Robert Badinter nevertheless branded the DNA amendment "despicable". He said it would allow the use of genetic tests for immigrants despite legislation that restricts such testing for medical and scientific research.

"We should not be resorting to useless and hurtful practices simply for immigration control," Badinter, who carried out the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, told Le Parisien newspaper.

A poll published Tuesday in Le Parisien showed 49 percent supported the DNA measure -- up from 47 percent three weeks ago -- compared to 43 percent who felt it was "contrary to the values of the republic".

On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets across France to protest the bill. Prominent African leaders Alpha Oumar Konare, the president of the African Union, and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade have also raised their voice against the measure.


Subject: French news

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