Migrants in Calais, northern France Credit: AFP, Phillipe Huguen
Migrants in Calais, northern France Credit: AFP, Phillipe Huguen

On August 1, the French Parliament signed into law a new asylum and immigration bill. What will change for asylum seekers in France?

In spite of controversy from both the political left and right, France enacted a stringent new asylum law last Wednesday designed to accelerate asylum procedures, expedite expulsions and quicker integrate successful applicants.

The bill was passed by French parliament with 100 votes in favor versus 25 against and 11 abstentions.   

What changes?

Here are some of the major changes that will come into effect.

  • Time limit to file an asylum application

One of the major provisions of the law is the reduced time frame to claim asylum in France: Asylum seekers now only have 90 days upon entering France to file an asylum application. Previously, asylum seekers had 120 days.

  • Detainment 

The law doubles the number of days an asylum seeker may be detained from 45 days to 90.

  • Crime and refugee status

Previously, France could withdraw refugee status from a migrant who had been convicted of a crime or an act of terror in France. This law now allows France to withdraw French refugee status from any individual who committed a crime in the EU or in a third country that is considered "democratic" by France. 

  • Deportation

A migrant who has received a deportation order will no longer have 30 days to leave voluntarily if they have refused to get their fingerprints or photo taken by French authorities. 

  • Working in France

Asylum seekers can now work legally in France from six months after entering the country, rather than nine as it was previously. 

  • Family reunification

Family reunification will be extended to siblings under certain conditions. Previously, non-married minor refugees with full asylum or subsidiary protection could only apply to be reunited with their parents. Now, beneficiaries can ask to be reunited with brothers and sisters, in addition to their parents.                

Controversy over bill

The far right in France criticized the bill as "lax" and fear that it would result in more migrants coming to France and receiving asylum, AFP reports.

The left, on the other hand, sees the bill as a move to limit the scope of asylum cases and fears that the maximum detention of 90 days could "put children behind bars" for three months, AFP reported. French aid organizations including terre d'asile said in a report last month that in the past year, 304 children were kept in deportation centers, an increase of 70 percent over the last year. The report added that the children are often traumatized by the experience.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb believes the new asylum law will allow the French government to better handle the asylum issue: "We are giving ourselves the means of preserving a right to asylum which, had nothing been done, could rapidly have been called into question as one fears may happen in a number of European countries," he said. 


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