French parliament set to approve DNA immigration bill
23 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) – The French parliament was on Tuesday poised to adopt an immigration bill that has sparked angry debate for introducing DNA testing of foreigners who want to join relatives in France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has faced street protests and opposition even within his own political camp over the bill that imposes new conditions for immigrants to be reunited with their families.
But Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux defended the bill before the National Assembly, saying it had been “caricatured” and had fallen victim to “political tactics” instead of “disagreements on principle.”
Recalling that 12 European countries allow DNA testing of immigration applicants, Hortefeux said the practice “will give foreigners of good faith a new right that will allow them to prove their affiliation, if they opt to do so.”
The opposition Socialists have said the bill sets a dangerous precedent by resorting to genetics to determine who gets a place in France instead of human rights principles.
“This law violates the fundamental principles of the republic which do not define family and affiliation by biology,” said Socialist deputy Arnaud Montebourg, a rising star in the party.
Montebourg warned that the bill would “create very serious grounds for discrimination” and bring France into a system of “biocontrol of individuals” where “genetics will be used as a tool of the administrative police.”
Leftist politicians have said they plan to ask the Constitutional Council, France's highest legal authority, to rule on its legality.
A first version of the bill went before the cabinet in July, soon after Sarkozy took office on a platform that called for tightening immigration rules following riots in 2005 that rocked the immigrant-heavy suburbs.
But the furore was ignited when an amendment introduced last month called for DNA tests of applicants, prompting three former prime ministers and members of Sarkozy's governing rightwing party — Edouard Balladur, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Dominique de Villepin — to come out against the measure.
A leftist minister in the rightwing government, Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, called the DNA provision “disgusting” and threatened to resign over the government's immigration policies.
The government has been forced to make a series of concessions such as making the state pay for the procedure, restricting DNA testing to maternal affiliation and mandating a French court to decide whether tests are required.
But former Socialist justice minister Robert Badinter nevertheless branded the DNA amendment “despicable” and said it would allow the use of genetic tests for immigrants despite legislation that restricts such testing for medical and scientific research.
“We should not be resorting to useless and hurtful practices simply for immigration control,” Badinter, who carried out the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, told Le Parisien newspaper.
A poll published Tuesday in Le Parisien showed 49 percent supported the DNA measure — up from 47 percent three weeks ago — compared to 43 percent who felt it was “contrary to the values of the republic”.
The bill went before the National Assembly for a vote before the Senate has its final say later Tuesday, but the Socialists and Communists have said they will ask the constitutional council to strike it down.
Thousands of people took to the streets across France Saturday to protest the bill while prominent African leaders Alpha Oumar Konare, the president of the African Union, and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade have also raised their voice against the measure.