France’s Immigration Bill Tilts Right as Worker Permit Clause Dropped

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PARIS (Reuters) – France’s much-debated immigration bill veered towards the right overnight as senators removed an article that would have facilitated residency permits for undocumented migrant workers in sectors struggling to find staff.

President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul migration legislation in France has long been delayed as it struggles to find enough support, underlining the difficulty of lacking an absolute majority in parliament.

The government had tried to please the left and right with a carrot-and-stick approach that would have sped up the expulsion of illegal migrants while making it easier to obtain residency permits for those who work in sectors in high need of workers, whether it be to work in a restaurant or take part in harvests.

Tuesday night’s agreement – pushed by conservative and centre-right senators – could increase the likelihood of the bill passing, since it relied on votes from the right.

Before that change was adopted at committee level overnight, members of the conservative Les Republicains in the National Assembly had planned to abstain on the law, a source from Macron’s Renaissance party said. The lower house of parliament will have the final word on the law in December.

But Tuesday’s move also created tensions among the majority’s ranks, suggesting debate on the bill is far from over.

“They’re doing as if there were no employees without documents or employers that need these skills. Even worse, this is reducing the existing possibilities of regularisation,” Stella Dupont, an MP with Macron’s party, said on X.

Dupont told Reuters she would like the article to be reinstated and to create a visa for workers in “under tension” sectors, without giving discretionary power to local prefectures (administrations) to do so.

Under the tweaks made by the Senate committee, residency permits would only be issued on a case by case basis by the prefecture, as is currently the case, and with tougher conditions, a Les Republicains statement said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Layli Foroudi; editing by Ingrid Melander and Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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