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3 things you need to know about France plans to strip dual citizens’ nationality in terrorism cases

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In the aftermath of Paris terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, in which 130 people were killed, France’s president François Hollande called for a measure to strip dual national terrorists of their French nationality. Here are 3 points you need to know.

  1. The measure already exists.

While some may be discovering it, the forfeiture of the French nationality aimed for punishing those who by their behavior seek to destroy the social bond by committing acts of terrorism isn’t a completely new proposal. In fact, article 25, 1° of the French civil code already allows the government to strip French citizenship (by decree adopted after conforming assent of the Conseil d’État and on a set deadline) of people who have been naturalized and have dual nationality, if they’re convicted of a crime or an offence that constitutes an act of terrorism or a serious infringement of the fundamental interests of the nation. The French government now wants to anchor the forfeiture of the French nationality in the constitution and extend its application, under the same conditions, to born French bi-nationals.

  1. 22 French citizenships revoked since 1989

According to the French interior Ministry sources quoted by the Figaro newspaper, 22 naturalized French citizens have been stripped of their citizenship since 1989. And during the weekly “questions to the government” session at the French National Assembly, the interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve also revealed that since 2012, 6 dual nationals have been deprived of the French nationality for terrorism acts. The latest case involved a French-Moroccan man naturalized in 2003. Charged with recruiting for a terrorist organization, he was sentenced to seven years in jail in March 2013 and stripped of his citizenship in May 2014. He is expected to be expelled to Morocco upon the completion of his jail sentence, but whether Morocco will accept or not his extradition…it’s a different story.

  1. Who are the French bi-nationals?

To date there are no official or specific data on the number of French nationals holding dual nationality in France. However, there are several studies on the matter and according to a research carried by Ined (National Institute for Demographic) during the 2008 census more than 40% of immigrants who lived in France had French citizenship. That was also the case for 95% of immigrant descendants.  But the exact figures for dual nationals remain unclear and approximate mainly because the census does not record details such as the origins of people on its registry. The study also revealed that dual nationals counted for 5% of France metropolitan’s population and were aged 18 to 50 years. Some 1.5 million people: 90% of whom were immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Furthermore, nearly 1 of 2 immigrants who had acquired French nationality had also kept their original one.

A poll conducted a few days after the terrorist attacks of November showed that 94% of French people were favorable to the measure to strip of their French citizenship dual nationals who have committed terrorist acts in the country. They were 81% after the January deadly attacks. And yet, despite that the measure has greatly polarized opinions. Indeed, it questions the very principle of equality among French citizens as enshrined in the constitution and challenges the fundamental right of soil principle.

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