| 3 March 2024, Sunday |

Macron’s immigration bill rejected by French lower house

French lawmakers sent the government’s immigration bill back to the drawing board on Monday, in a surprise move that cut short debates at the lower house and dealt a blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to pass laws without a majority.

Lawmakers from Marine Le Pen’s far right party as well as many conservatives joined forces to reject the bill on its first day in the National Assembly, adopting a motion proposed by the Greens, which passed by just two votes.

The rejection does not mean the government needs to resign and does not signal the end of the immigration bill.

The government can now decide to send it back to the upper house, send it to a joint committee of senators and deputies to find a compromise, or pull it, which is unlikely.

It can also use special executive powers to force its adoption without a vote.

The immigration bill has been a key plank of Macron’s attempts to show he can be tougher on law and order issues while keeping France’s doors open to foreign workers who can help the French economy.

But short of a majority in parliament, he has struggled to pass a bill that has strict provisions disliked by left-wing lawmakers and more liberal aspects criticised by some conservatives and the far right.

The government has presented the bill as essential to expel foreign criminals more easily. One provision removes a ban on expelling those migrants who arrived in France before the age of 13, as was the case for the alleged Russian-born Islamist militant who killed a French teacher in October.

Other provisions that have been hotly debated are whether non-EU migrants should continue to get access to free medical coverage in France, as well as the government’s aim to facilitate the legalisation of workers in industries suffering from labour shortages such as cafes and restaurants.

  • Reuters