The French parliament passed legislation tightening France’s immigration policy after months of political debate.
The amended bill was supported by both the centrist Ennahda party, led by President Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen.
The vote split Macron’s party, and Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau announced he would resign.
Left parties accused Macron of making concessions to the far right.
Last week, Parliament rejected a previous draft law, by the National Rally Party and the Left Party. In response, the government rewrote the draft law, making some of its provisions more stringent.
The new legislation makes it difficult for immigrants to bring their family members to France and delays their access to welfare benefits.
It is also prohibited to hold minors in detention centres.
The stricter version was liked by right-wing parties, which supported it on Monday.
Le Pen welcomed the amended bill and described it as an “ideological victory” for the far right.
“This is our bill,” said Eric Ciotti, leader of the right-wing Republican Party. He described the bill as “firm and courageous.”
But leftists said Macron was working to empower the far right. Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said, “History will remember those who betrayed their convictions.”
The French vote came hours before the European Union agreed to reform the asylum system in the 27 member states of the Union.
The new agreement, approved by European Union governments and members of the European Parliament, includes the establishment of border detention centers and enabling the rapid deportation of rejected asylum seekers.
The new system, which Parliament Speaker Roberta Mizzola hailed as a historic agreement, allows asylum seekers from southern member states, which have the largest numbers of arrivals, to be transferred to other countries.
Formal approval still needs to be obtained from Parliament and member states.
The new French legislation revealed divisions within the ruling coalition. 27 deputies voted against the decision, while 32 abstained from voting, i.e. nearly a quarter of the deputies who supported Macron.
Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau, who was a member of the Communist Party in his youth, told Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday that he intended to step down in protest against the immigration law. Several other ministers are reportedly on the verge of resigning.
“Some of the measures in the bill make me feel very uncomfortable,” said Yael Brown-Pivett, speaker of the lower house of parliament, referring to restrictions on benefits for legal immigrants.
The bill could have been passed if Le Pen’s party had abstained from voting, but not if it had voted against it. The government indicated the size of its majority to confirm that it does not depend on the votes of the National Assembly.
Speaking after the vote, the Prime Minister agreed that some measures in the law may not be constitutional.
“We will ask the Constitutional Council,” she told French radio, referring to the Supreme Court, which respects the principles of the constitution.
Human rights groups denounced the new reform as France’s most reactionary immigration law in decades.
Macron’s party lost its majority in parliament in the June 2022 elections. Since then, the government has often found itself unable to win votes in parliament.
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