The head of France’s opposition UMP party has proposed legislation that would revoke automatic citizenship for children born in France of illegal immigrants, leading to accusations of flirting dangerously with the resurgent far-right National Front.
The head of France’s centre-right opposition UMP party has come under fierce criticism after proposing a law that would revoke automatic citizenship for children born in France of foreign parents illegally residing on French soil.
Jean-François Copé announced late on Tuesday that a new bill, to be presented to the National Assembly in early 2014, was designed to redefine France’s “moribund” immigration laws.
“If one is born of non-French parents living illegally in France, that family neither assumes that it is going to stay in France nor that the child has the right to citizenship,” Copé said.
“The same applies for children born to foreign parents who are here legally. They should not expect automatic citizenship. It should and must be applied for.”
Under current rules, all children born in France to foreign parents get citizenship automatically when they turn 18, provided that they have lived in the country for at least five years from the age of 11.
EU citizens can claim French nationality if they can prove five years’ residency, while everyone else must wait ten years before they can apply.
The National Front threat
With local elections due in Spring 2014, Copé’s proposal comes at a critical point in the immigration debate and in defining policy for the splintered UMP, a party facing an existential threat in the form of the resurgent far-right and anti-immigration National Front (FN).
So far Copé has the backing of former prime minister François Fillon’s supporters, as well as the UMP's parliamentary leader Christian Jacob.
But former minister and UMP elder Patrick Devedjian spoke out Tuesday to criticise a drift to the right that would give the FN legitimacy and fail to pull back disaffected voters.
“This is the wrong thing to do, just as it is wrong to allow the FN to get into every political debate,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in right-leaning daily Le Figaro on Tuesday. “The UMP should be concentrating on defining and clarifying its fundamental principles, rather than worrying about the policies of the [ruling] Socialists or the FN.”
“There’s absolutely no reason why we should change the laws on the right to French citizenship for those who are born here,” he said. “It’s a right that has existed here since the Revolution and is fundamental to our country’s republican values.”
‘Lack of sincerity’
Naturally, the rest of the political spectrum had harsh words for the UMP.
“This is anti-republican,” Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the National Assembly, while the party’s parliamentary leader Bruno Le Roux added that the UMP was “in a mad spiral, looking to initiate a debate that will only serve to bolster the FN".
The centrist UDI party, meanwhile, called Copé’s proposal a “double mistake”.
“The right of citizenship for those born in France is a fundamental republican principle that should not be turned into a political football,” UDI National Assembly leader Yves Jégo said in a statement. “And you don’t fight the FN by becoming the FN.”
The anti-immigration FN, meanwhile, took an ironic pleasure in slamming a “timid” UMP move.
“This announcement reveals, as usual with the UMP, a game of electoral smoke and mirrors,” said FN deputy leader Florian Philippot.
“The UMP was in power from 2002 to 2012 and had ten years to reform the country’s immigration laws. It did nothing at all. It took for them to be in opposition, and in a parliamentary minority, to make a timid gesture that if anything proves the party’s total lack of sincerity.”
Date created : 2013-10-23