Update on DNA and biometrics in French immigration law

By EDRi · October 24, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

With its final vote on 23 October 2007, the French Parliament
confirmed the introduction of DNA testing in the new immigration law to
prove family links for foreign candidates applying for a more than 3
months visa on family regrouping grounds. The only recourse could now
be a decision from the French Constitutional Council to remove this
provision from the law, since the Parliamentary opposition
(Socialists, Communists and Greens), together with some centrist
members of Parliament, announced that it would challenge the adopted
law before the Constitutional judge.

The final vote occurred after a Parliamentary Commission agreed on
the harmonisation of the draft texts resulting from both the National
Assembly and the Senate. With respect to DNA testing provision as
initially adopted by the National Assembly, some modifications
occurred in order to answer to some of the criticisms. Main changes are:
the DNA tests will be paid by the French government and not anymore
made at the expenses of the visa applicant; the biological family
links would be checked against the mother’s DNA to avoid unexpected,
possibly dramatic revelations in the family; the need for the test
should be authorised by a civil court; informed consent from
concerned persons should be expressly collected; the whole provision
is now declared as experimental, and will be revised after the end of
year 2009.

However, these changes have by no mean satisfied the numerous
opponents of this provision, as their demand remains that DNA testing
should not be used to check family links, since such links cannot be
reduced to blood relation. More than 280 000 persons, including
personalities from all political parties, signed a petition, and
thousands of people participated in street demonstrations in many
French cities on 20 October against this provision.

Many observers commenting this provision, including in foreign
countries, referred to practices from the Nazi occupation period. An
editorial by the New-York Times even reminded that ‘immigration
issues bring out the worst instincts in politicians’, while
Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo has recently introduced a
similar bill in U.S. House, as press agencies have reported. French opinion
seem however divided: according to a poll made on 18-19 October 2007, only
45% of the 1000 asked persons find the provision to be “against French
society values”, while 49% considers DNA testing “as a good measure since it
allows to check if family visa applicants are indeed members of the same

The French Constitutional Council will decide upon the challenged law
within one month after the challenge is filed, which is expected to
happen immediately after the vote of 23 October.

In addition to DNA testing, the draft law introduced further use of
biometrics against foreigners, without much debate. Article 62 of the
adopted law requires that the beneficiaries of financial support
(foreigners voluntarily returning home) have their photograph and
digital fingerprints taken and stored in yet another database. This
provision has been introduced with the claim that it would help
fighting frauds in case these persons come back to stay again in France.

In an analysis published on 24 October French EDRI member IRIS
highlights how this provision, in the same way as the DNA testing and
former biometric databases set-up, is part of the general strategy
and managerial logic based on the rationalization of processes and
procedures, leading to the fundamental transformation of a conception
of society once based on mutual trust into a situation of generalized

EDRI-gram: DNA Tests Proposed In France For Family Visa Applicants

Petition against DNA tests (only in French, launched on 03.10.2007)


Thousands of people have demonstrated against the immigration project and
DNA tests (only in French, 21.10.2007)

The New-York Times: ‘Pseudoscientific Bigotry in France’ (21.10.2007)

AP: ‘DNA Test of Immigrants Sought’ (16.10.2007)

49% of the French for a DNA test for family regroupment (only in French,

IRIS: ‘Immigration: yet another biometric “detail”‘ (only in French,

(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, EDRI member IRIS – France)