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Marseille Students Rally Against Immigration Changes

Marseille Students Rally Against Immigration Changes
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Students in Marseille have called for a protest on Sunday, January 21, against the Immigration Law that was passed in December last year. There has been a lot of controversy concerning the law, as this has been one of the harshest immigration laws ever passed in the senate. In the past couple of years, France has seen a significant rise in nationalism led by Marine Le Pen, the president of National Rally, as Emmanuel Macron’s policies have clearly upset the French population. Macron promised to control immigration and improve integration of foreigners into the French society in his election campaign in 2022, and its manifestation is the new bill passedby the senate in December last year.

Originally, the bill was less harsh; it was supposed to show that Macron was ready to take strict measures in order to curb immigration, and at the same time maintain a healthy foreign worker class that will help boost the economy. After the oppositions refusal to even debate the bill in the senate, the final draft had to lean more towards the right in order to restrain immigration, and keep the far right content. Marine Le Pen called it an ‘ideological victory’ which speaks more than volumes about where the future of French immigration policies are headed.

The bill has introduced the principle of annual parliamentary debate on immigration to comply with the wishes of the right wing senators. They have also agreed to establish immigration ‘quotas’ which will be set by the Parliament to limit the number of foreigners in the country for the next three years, except for asylum seekers.

There is an increase in tuition fees for non-EU students who represent 11% of the students in France. They now have to pay a ‘return deposit’, the amount of which has not been specified yet. This deposit is supposed to cover ‘unexpected costs’ for reasons that may arise during their sojourn in France. It will be returned once the student finishes their education and leaves France when the permit expires, or if they renew or change residency status and sign a work contract. If there is a removal order and the student evades it, the deposit will not be returned. They will also be subject to quotas.

A line is now drawn between foreigners who are in a situation of employment and who are not, pertaining to social benefits. For example, foreigners who do not work have to wait five years to get personalized housing aid and family allowance; whereas those who are employed have to wait three months for housing assistance and thirty months for family allowance. Although disabled people will not be affected.

One of the key issues of the bill was the regularization of workers in sectors where there is a labor shortage; the presidential camp wanted to issue a one year residence permit for undocumented workers in stressed sectors such as hospitality, building and metal industries. But the right feared that it would attract migrants, and so a compromise had to be made. Until the end of 2026, the prefects will be able to decide whether they want to regularize a migrant, provided that they have resided in the country for a minimum of three years and been employed for at least twelve months out of the last two years. Life will become more difficult for undocumented workers; a formerly abolished law has been reintroduced: the police can fine an immigrant up to €3,750 if they are found to be without valid documents. Companies that employ illegal workers will also see harsher sanctions. Police raids are happening more often in Paris, especially in the more populated areas such as Paris Nord which is the busiest train station in Europe – a hub for undocumented street vendors, illegal drug dealers, homeless people and
pickpockets.

The law of soil is defunct in the republic. People born to foreign parents in France will no longer automatically get citizenship by the age of 18. According to the new bill, a foreigner born in France now has to ‘illustrate’ their desire to obtain nationality between the age of 16 to 18; although how this will be achieved remains speculative. If the foreign person born in France is convicted of crimes, naturalization is out the window. This is a serious issue because many minors born to foreign parents are often involved in selling drugs in the streets because of their immunity to being convicted of a crime, and the parents are mostly oblivious to it. Naturalized citizenship can be stripped away from someone if they are convicted of serious crimes. Despite all the jarring laws, there is a ban on detaining foreigners accompanied by minors under the age of 16, the right had to compromise in order to cut Macron some slack.

The senate also voted to tighten conditions for family reunification. An applicant is now required to legally reside in France for at least 24 months before applying, it used to be 18. They are also required to have stable work, sufficient resources and health insurance. A spouse’s minimum age is now 21.

The bill also introduced some restrictions on access to the ‘sick foreigner residence permit’ which will only be granted if there is no appropriate treatment in the country of origin. If the applicant has resources that are deemed sufficient for the treatment, health insurance will not be provided.

The new immigration law has caused chaos inside Macron’s cabinet. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau resigned on December 19th – the day the law was passed, and Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne resigned on January 8th this year. The public support seems to be gradually shifting towards the right. Le Pen’s party has achieved an incredible victory in the senate, its effect on France’s Immigration landscape will only unfold with time.

Mzaad
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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