Debate starts Monday in the French parliament on President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial immigration and asylum bill, which has divided his party, La République En Marche (LREM), like never before.
More than one thousand amendments have been proposed – with a record 200 of them from Macron’s own LREM lawmakers. Macron’s party is by far the largest party in France’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
The bill is controversial in part because it would allow the children of failed asylum seekers to be detained before being expelled and for people to be prosecuted for helping illegal immigrants enter or stay in France.
In an interview with French radio RFL on Monday, Christophe Castaner, Macron’s minister in charge of relations between the executive and legislature, said opponents of the bill “lack solidarity”. He also appeared to suggest that even amending the law would be a betrayal of Macron, saying: “This legislation follows Macron’s philosophy, and I don’t think [LREM lawmakers] can ignore the platform on which they were elected.”
Richard Ferrand, parliamentary leader of the party, called 20 of the bill’s opponents to order at a preliminary meeting of LREM lawmakers to discuss the legislation on Tuesday. According to French daily “Le Monde”, Ferrand exclaimed: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and if an omelet needs breaking – I’ll do it!”
For his part, Macron said in a wide-ranging interview with French news networks BFMTV and Mediapart on Sunday that the bill is necessary because, “Europe is facing an unprecedented wave of migration and will continue to do so”.
The president justified the proposed detention of children of failed asylum seekers by arguing that, “otherwise, you can’t expel any family”. Expulsions are often delayed for several months; during this delay, failed asylum seekers are detained to prevent them from escaping and staying in the country.
He defended the prosecution of those who help illegal immigrants by saying that, “people who save lives as a humanitarian act shouldn’t be prosecuted – but I’m not going to let off people who, intentionally or not, help human traffickers”.
The National Assembly is due to vote on the bill on Friday.