French deputies tighten immigration rules
20.09.07 @ 09:26
French MPs early Thursday morning (20 September) passed a bill toughening up the country's immigration laws including a controversial clause allowing DNA testing for proving family relations.
The DNA clause is "experimental" and will run for a set period until the end of 2010, reports French daily Le Monde.
This part of the bill was adopted towards midnight with 91 votes in favour to 45 against and will be for families of immigrants to genetically prove they are related.
The bill foresees that if an application to go to France, to join family already there, is doubted by immigration officers, then the applicant will be offered the possibility of taking a DNA test.
According to the law, the test must be strictly voluntary and asked for by the would-be immigrant. The costs for the test would only be reimbursed if the application was successful.
In addition, the immigration bill asks that people who want to come to France be tested for knowledge of the French language and values of the Republic in their home countries.
If they fail this knowledge test, more training will be given after which a new test will take place.
This test will apply to people aged 65 years or less, including spouses, wanting to go to France to rejoin their families, says Le Monde.
Moreover, the applicant will have to have more financial resources at their disposal, according to the new rules.
Another controversial point in the law pushed by immigration minister Brice Hortefeux is that it would allow population censuses to be taken on the of basis of racial and ethnic origins in order to undertake research on the "diversity of the origins of the persons, of discrimination and integration."
The bill has caused huge controversy among French politicians. Deputies from president Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party generally support the new DNA measures.
They say it will accelerate the process of application for families and that several European countries already have a similar procedure.
According to the immigration report drawn up by centre-right MP Thierry Mariani, Austria, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden all use DNA testing.
Politicians from the left as well as civil rights organisation have been strongly critical fearing that DNA tests will slowly become the norm for immigrants trying to come to France.
The bill still has to go through the upper house. It is expected to be debated there in the coming weeks.
It comes after an electoral promise by Mr Sarkozy to tighten up the country's immigration policy with France looking to expel around 25,000 illegal immigrants this year.