France's highest court has ruled that French police are no longer permitted to arrest illegal immigrants unless they are suspected of having committed a crime, France 24 is reporting.
Illegal immigrants can no longer be detained by police simply for not having legal citizenship papers, the court ruled Thursday according to France 24.
Before this, police could hold "sans-papers," meaning "without papers," the French term for illegal aliens, even if they had not committed a crime.
Under French law, being an illegal alien is not a crime in France. On Thursday, France's Cour de Cassation, the country's highest court, ruled in favor of a group of illegal immigrants who argued their detentions were unjust and illegal under French law.
According to France 24, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the French government would act quickly and officially to amend French law, but maintained that "the ultimate removal of illegal aliens (from France) must remain central to any legislation on this issue."
According to the Daily Mail, France announced it had expelled more illegal immigrants in 2011 than ever before.
In a press conference, Interior Minister Claude Gueant announced that French authorities had removed 32,912 illegal immigrants from France, up 17.5% from 2010.
Like then President, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gueant also had a hardline stance against illegal immigration.
Sarkozy, who lost the election to Socialist candidate, new President of France, Francois Hollande, always took a strong stance against illegal immigration. He argued that keeping illegal immigrants in police custody for a certain amount of time was justifiable according to EU immigration laws, but many argued that Sarkozy was oversimplifying EU policies for his own gain, and various courts issued verdicts on the legality of actually locking illegal aliens up in jail, France 24 reports.
Back in March, his staunch stance on immigration policies actually gave him a jolt in the polls, the Daily Mail reports.
Sarkozy was predicted to lose the election all along, but his hostility to illegal immigration policies gave him a much needed boost.
In April, Sarkozy's opponent and current French President, Francois Hollande said France was experiencing a crisis, and that limiting economic immigration was "necessary and essential," Reuters reports.
According to France 24, Hollande also stated it was not right "that a certain number of employers, in a cynical way, are hiring illegal immigrants."
Hollande's opponent, the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy won in 2007 by appealing to far right wing voters about the severity of the illegal immigration issues.
While Sarkozy and Hollande were both vocal about the illegal immigration issue in France, Sarkozy took a way stronger stance on the issue. Hollande is France's first Socialist leader in 20 years. The last Socialist leader prior to Hollade was Francois Mitterand.
It is important to understand that illegal immigration in France is still a key issue, but Patrice Spinosi, legal counsel for the high court, explained to France 24, that Thursday's ruling simply means that dealing with illegal immigrants would now be an "administrative rather than criminal procedure," and that now French police would be obligated to "comply with European law."
Mr. Spinosi noted that France's new government is ready to change the law, whereas, under Sarkozy, France knew it was at risk of breaching European law, but "refused to reform."
The far-right national front called Thursday's ruling "lax, ultraliberal, and pandering to the whims of a European legal oligarchy," France 24 reports.