Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

France set for another migration election

17 December 20210 comments

Immigration is set to again become a volatile and divisive issue in France as the presidential election approaches.

Michel Barnier, who was Europe’s former chief Brexit negotiator, is now running for French the presidency to be decided in April.

And part of his platform is that France is badly divided and he has accused incumbent President Emmanuel Macron of being insensitive to citizens’ concerns.

Some observers are also saying Barnier will propose a policy of strict immigration controls should he win the nomination of the Les Republicains party.

Reports in France says that his words hint at the fact that he longer believes in freedom of movement in the European Union.

And there is public debate in France about how a member of the European Union’s Schengen free movement zone could implement such a ban without breaking EU law.

Barnier has claimed that out-of-control immigration was eroding France’s sense of identity in what was a plea to voters on the right.

“When the foundations are fragile, when they move, you cannot build on top. Our country’s base is weak: our unity is fragile, our togetherness is in question,” Barnier told media recently.

France already routinely distinguishes between EU and non-EU migrants. Even if EU citizens are counted as ‘étrangers’ in official statistics, the term étrangers, translated simply as foreigners, is used in political discourse to refer to those from outside the EU who do not benefit from the EU freedom of movement.

Despite the political rhetoric, the statistics paint a different picture

Data from 2020 shows 6.8 million migrants officially live in France.

But France does not require EU migrant to register for residency and there are estimates of another 2.5 million more living in the country without papers.

Many of them are food delivery workers or employed in construction and they include asylum seekers who have overstayed visas or failed to regularise their immigration status within a deadline.

Despite the fact that the number of asylum requests has decreased as a result of the pandemic, France remained the third most popular destination for asylum seekers in Europe last year, trailing only Germany and Spain.

And despite a large movement of migrants and asylum seekers towards Europe in 2015, migration to France did not increase.

Migrants to France come mainly from its former colonies—in 2019, 41 per cent of migrants to France came from Africa, 32 per cent came from Europe and a large number of migrants came from Algeria and Tunisia.

In 2020, France issued citizenship to immigrants who worked on the front lines during the pandemic, mainly in healthcare, retail, public transportation, and childcare.

Of the more than 270,000 first-time residence cards issued in 2019, only 39,000 migrated for economic reasons.

And, 62 per cent of immigrants who came to France in 2019 were aged between 18 and 34 – an age profile that makes a more positive contribution to an economy with an ageing population where a significant amount of spending occurs on health and pensions.