Top French court rejects large parts of controversial immigration bill

The court rejected measures that toughen access to social benefits, family reunification, and immigration quotas.

An opponent of France's immigration law holds a flag during a protest in Paris
An opponent of France's immigration law holds a flag during a protest in Paris on January 21, 2024 [Thomas Padilla/AP Photo]

More than a third of articles in a controversial immigration bill must be scrapped, France’s Constitutional Council has said.

The council, a body that validates the constitutionality of laws, rejected measures in the bill on Thursday that call for the toughening of access to social benefits, family reunification, and the introduction of immigration quotas set by parliament.

It upheld much of the bill initially presented by President Emmanuel Macron’s government but criticised the contentious additions made under pressure from the political right and far right.

The bill includes migration quotas, obstacles to family reunification and delays to migrants’ access to welfare benefits, as well as articles cancelling automatic birthright citizenship and making it easier to deport non-French nationals.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin welcomed the ruling, saying it had validated the government’s initial proposals.

“Never has a text provided so many means for expelling delinquents,” he wrote on X.

“The Government takes note, as I was able to indicate during the debates, of the censorship of numerous articles added to Parliament for non-compliance with parliamentary procedure,” Darmanin wrote in French.


People attend a demonstration against the immigration law, surnamed "Darmanin law",
People attend a demonstration against the immigration law, called the ‘Darmanin law’, with one protester holding a placard that reads ‘Withdrawal of the Darmanin law’ in Paris, France [Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

Jordan Bardella, the president of the far-right National Rally party, slammed the ruling, which he described as a “coup by the judges, with the backing of the president”.

He called for a referendum on immigration as the “only solution”.

The council dismissed 32 out of 86 amendments because they were unrelated to the law’s subject. But they could be accepted later as part of a different bill.

The council also criticised three more amendments partially – or in total – over their essence, and partially rejected the setting of immigration quotas by parliament.

Earlier this week, the United Nations special rapporteur on racism said the bill violates France’s constitutional commitment to equality and liberty.

“When we look at the French Constitution or the way in which the head of state or many in positions of power speak, it’s equality, but that is in strong contradiction to these policies,” Ashwini KP, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, told the Reuters news agency.

Ashwini KP also raised concerns over the proposed restrictions to social welfare for migrants and said they would greatly “impact marginalised communities”.

Macron has made the bill a key plank of his second term in office and defended its passing through parliament.

But the president has faced criticism over the bill, which drew support from the far-right National Rally party.

Macron referred the legislation to France’s Constitutional Council to check if it complies with the Constitution.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies