France could reportedly jail illegal immigrants caught using fake identity papers for up to five years, and those entering the country without using a recognised border crossing could get one year, under proposed new laws.
A controversial immigration and asylum bill, which has sparked opposition from rights groups, opposition parties and even members of President Emmanuel Macron’s own party, was due to be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday.
The centrist president, who came to power last year after seeing off the anti-immigrant Front National leader Marine Le Pen, is under pressure to toughen his policy in a country where 63 per cent of people told a recent opinion poll that there were too many immigrants.
The bill has not yet been made public, but Le Monde newspaper says that its Article 16 calls for illegal immigrants using fake identity papers or someone else’s ID “to stay in the country and for most of the time to work there” would face up to five years in jail and €75,000 (£66,000) euros in fines.
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants currently work in restaurants, factories, and building sites across France, many of them using fake or borrowed ID. If caught by authorities, few go to court, and if they do they often get only a suspended sentence and a request to leave the country.
After France processed a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, Mr Macron vowed to grant asylum faster but also to deport economic migrants more swiftly, while better integrating those who stay.
The new law will be presented to his cabinet on Wednesday ahead of parliamentary debates that promise to be stormy, with migrant charities and left-wingers blasting the bill as repressive.
“The bill is completely balanced,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who drew up the new bill, insisted last month. “It works on two guiding principles: France must welcome refugees, but it cannot welcome all economic migrants.”