French interior minister forced to back down on tough immigration bill

Gerald Darmanin, appointed in 2020, has been at the helm of a number of crackdowns on Islamist extremism

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wanted to push through controversial anti-immigration laws that worried some members of President Macron's government.
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France's ambitious hard-line interior minister has been forced to back down over his plans to fast-track a tough immigration bill by President Emmanuel Macron.

Gerald Darmanin had proposed draft legislation to clamp down on illegal immigration and enable the expulsion of foreign citizens found guilty of criminal acts.

The interior minister had been pressing for a quick vote in parliament, but Mr Macron’s centre-right government has ordered the proposals to be shelved until a “consultation” in the autumn, The Times reported.

The move is seen as a bid to appease some members of Mr Macron’s cabinet who are concerned that Mr Darmanin’s hard-line policies could thwart the president’s attempts to encourage opposition parties to join his National Assembly.

President Macron won a second term in April but failed to win an outright majority in subsequent parliamentary elections in June.

Mr Darmanin, who was appointed as interior minister in 2020, has been at the helm of a number of crackdowns on Islamist extremism.

Following the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an Islamic terrorist in October 2020, he announced a large police sweep of extremists, and ordered the closing of the Pantin mosque in France after it re-broadcast a video containing false allegations about Paty.

He went on to order the dissolution of other associations with ties to radical Islam and deemed “separatist”, and sponsored a bill to uproot radical Islam.

Mr Darmanin has gone to court to prevent the building of a new mosque in Strasbourg and ordered the closure of Islamic website La Voie Droite. Earlier this year, he successfully overturned the decision by the city of Grenoble to allow women to wear burkinis at public swimming pools.

A controversial figure in French politics, the interior minister is seen as a contender to be the next president of France after Mr Macron completes his second and final term in 2027.

Mr Darmanin’s latest bill included measures intended to ensure that foreigners are only allowed to stay in France if they accept national “values”, such as secularism and gender equality.

The postponement of the bill is a setback for the ambitious politician who has described himself as the “voice of the lower and middle classes”, but whose immigration policies are considered too radical by some members of Mr Macron’s government.

His plans also included scrapping a law that makes it difficult to expel foreign criminals if they are married to a French citizen, or if they immigrated before the age of 13.

Mr Darmanin has also said he wants to expel asylum seekers who remain in the country even after their applications for refugee status have been refused.

Updated: August 05, 2022, 10:48 AM