Eight key takeaways from landmark French immigration study [2021 data]

Most notable finding for me was the social mobility of the second generation:

A major new demographic study has explored immigration into France for the first time in a decade.

The dossier, by the French statistics bureau Insee, was published on Thursday (March 30).

It mainly used data from 2021, the most recent available.

Here we look at its main findings.

1. One-in-ten people in France is an immigrant

The study found that there were an estimated seven million immigrants living in France in 2021, equivalent to 10.3% of the population.

The study defined ‘immigrant’ as someone who was “born with a foreign nationality in a foreign country”.

2. More than a third of immigrants acquired French nationality

The study found that many immigrants become significantly integrated into France, especially those who have children (second-generation) and grandchildren (third-generation), in the country.
It also found more than a third (36%) of people who arrived in France as immigrants acquired French nationality.

3. Nearly half of immigrants in France come from Africa

The study found that 50 years ago, most immigrants in France had come from southern Europe. This has now changed.

In 2021, they were more likely to come from north Africa (the Maghreb region), Africa, or Asia.

  • In 2011, there were 882,000 immigrants to France from Spain and Italy
  • In 2021, this had dropped to 543,000
  • In 2011, there were 1.63 million immigrants from the Maghreb
  • In 2021, there were more than 2 million immigrants from the Maghreb

Overall, almost half of the immigrants in France come from Africa (3.31 million of a total of 6.96 million).

4. More than half of the immigrants living in France are women

Challenging the stereotype that most immigrants are single men, the study revealed that 52% of immigrants living in France are women.

This has risen from 44% in 1968.

As with the immigrant population in general (see below), women are particularly likely to be “estranged” from the world of work, even though they are likely to have similar, if not higher, levels of education than immigrant men.

Insee said: “{Women are] nine times’ more likely to be inactive and three times less likely to be in full-time employment than men.”

The bureau said that while this could be partly because many immigrants make their journeys for family reasons, “including, often, the goal of raising a family,” this alone did not explain the gap.

“The probability of being inactive rises with the number of children, and whether they live with a partner,” Insee said.

5. Immigrants are more likely to be affected by unemployment

In 2021, 13% of immigrants were unemployed, compared to 7% of the general population in France.

Immigrants are over-represented in certain jobs, such as at-home carers and maternelle assistants for women, and the construction sector for men.

They are more likely to be in interim and temporary contracts compared to the rest of the population, and “often are in less-skilled jobs, associated with lower pay and more difficult working conditions”.

Insee said that 39% of immigrant men in employment are unskilled workers, compared to 29% of men who are neither immigrants themselves nor descendants of immigrants.

Insee suggested that lower employment levels among immigrants could partly be due to “hiring discrimination”. It said that it had tested the difference between immigrant job applications and non-immigrant applications.

“Similar candidates with a suspected Maghreb origin receive 32% fewer callbacks than those without the suspected origin, even though both say that they have done all of their education, diploma, and work, exclusively in France,” it wrote.

The lower employment levels could also be due to employers not recognising foreign qualifications, and also due to immigrants tending to have lower levels of French language skills.

This is especially the case for refugees, who are less likely to be from French-speaking countries (30%) compared to other immigrants to France (67%).

6. Immigrants are more likely to be poor

Immigrants are twice as likely as the rest of the population to suffer from financial poverty, especially those from Africa and Asia.

In 2019, at least half of immigrants earned less than €1,417 per month; 15% less on average than immigrant descendants, and 26% less on average than people without any recent immigrant background.

Insee said: “19% of immigrants born in Africa cannot have a personal car for financial reasons, versus only 3% of immigrants born in Europe. 47% of those from Africa cannot have a week of holiday away from home, compared to 22% of immigrants from Europe.”

Immigrants are also more likely to be in poor health. Insee found that 10% of immigrant men are likely to be in “bad or very bad health”, compared to 7% of the non-immigrant population, and 5% of descendants of immigrants.

7. Descendants of immigrants have high social mobility

Despite these challenges, the study shows that descendants of immigrants tend to have upward social mobility in terms of education and work.

Insee said: “The level of diplomas among immigrant descendants is very close to the non-immigrant and non-descendant-of-immigrants population.” This shows a strong rise in education levels and social mobility from one generation to another.

“A third (33%) of descendants of immigrants, whose father was an unskilled worker, go on to become managers or have a semi-skilled profession,” the study states.

This is higher than the figure (27%) for those who are not descendants of immigrants.

Around 32% of immigrants have higher-education qualifications, which rises to 38% among the descendants of immigrants, compared to 41% of the non-immigrant population.

8. Immigrants are more likely to be religious

Immigrants in France are more likely to be religious than the wider non-immigrant population.

In 2019-2020, 51% of the general population aged 18-59 in metropolitan France said they did not have a religion.

This rises to 59% among people with no recent (within three generations) immigration background.

In contrast, only 19% of immigrants who arrived in France after age 16 say the same, rising to 26% among descendants of immigrants.

  • 29% of the immigrant population said they were Catholic
  • 10% said they were Muslim
  • 9% said they were another form of Christianity

Among descendants of religious families:

  • 91% of people raised in a Muslim home follow their parents’ religion
  • 84% of people raised in a Jewish home do the same
  • As do 67% of people raised in a Catholic home
  • And 60% among other forms of Christianity

Insee said: “The fact of having grown up in a family of mixed religious or Catholic background is decisive when it comes to the secularisation of immigrant descendants.”

Source: Eight key takeaways from landmark French immigration study

UK: Braverman seeks to backdate Channel crossings law amid fears of rush

The latest effort by the UK government. Numbers are comparable to Roxham Road. And like Roxham Road, France may be less interested than the UK in adopting measures that restrict asylum seekers from leaving France:

Refugees who cross the Channel in small boats from Tuesday could face detention and deportation under a new migration law that Labour and charities have called “unworkable” and “cruel”.

In an acknowledgment that the law will prompt a fresh rush of refugees across the Channel, the Home Office is seeking to make the illegal migration bill apply retrospectively from the day it is introduced to parliament, the Guardian has been told.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, will ask for the proposed law to be applied from the moment she stands up in the Commons on Tuesday. The move follows criticism from unions that the legislation could result in an increase in trafficking across the Channel as refugees attempt to reach the UK before it is passed.

A Home Office source said: “If parliament passes the bill, the measures will be retrospective and apply from the date of introduction. That’s to stop people smugglers seizing on the opportunity to rush migrants across the Channel to avoid being subject to the new measures.”

Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said the plans would “fuel the service” for people smugglers, at least in the short term, “who could tell would-be arrivals that they needed to travel soon”.

Braverman is expected to say that under the new law, asylum claims from those who travel to the UK in small boats will be inadmissible, and the arrivals will be removed to a third country and banned from returning or claiming citizenship.

Details about how the policy will be implemented are scarce, with previous efforts to tighten procedures – such as the policy to send people to Rwanda – mired in legal challenges.

On Monday evening, a Downing Street spokesperson said Rishi Sunak had spoken to Rwanda’s president ahead of Braverman’s statement.

The prime minister and Paul Kagame “discussed the UK-Rwanda migration partnership and our joint efforts to break the business model of criminal people smugglers and address humanitarian issues”, the spokesperson said.

Source: Braverman seeks to backdate Channel crossings law amid fears of rush

French prime minister unveils plans to tackle racism – The Associated Press

Of note. Will see if anything concrete:

Name it, act on it, sanction it.

That is the focus of a new drive against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of all kinds that was announced Monday by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

The four-year plan starts with educating youth with a required yearly trip to a Holocaust or other memorial site exemplifying the horrors that racism can produce. It includes training teachers and civil servants about discrimination and toughening the ability to punish those denounced for discrimination.

Arrest warrants will be issued to those who use freedom of expression for racist or anti-Semitic ends.

Unusually, the plan includes fighting discrimination against Roma.

“There will be no impunity for hate,” Borne said, presenting her plan with 80 measures at the Institute of the Arab World.

Tolerance is on the rise, “but hate has reinvented itself,” she said.

“Our first challenge is to look squarely at the reality of racism and anti-Semitism and cede nothing to those who falsify history, who rewrite our past, forgetting or deforming some pages,” Borne added.

Some people working for years in French associations against racism and discrimination are skeptical about the plan, reject it outright or are reserving their judgement.

Even Kaltoum Gachi, a co-president of the anti-racist MRAP organization — which contributed a proposal — told The Associated Press that her group “will be vigilant to see if, concretely, (the plan) bears fruit.”

France’s government has rolled out a succession of plans over five decades, the latest in 2018, to grapple with racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination. Still, the estimated number of victims who suffered as least one racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic attack was 1.2 million per year, according to the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights.

Social media and a rising far-right fearful of the disappearance of the nation’s Christian roots in an increasingly multi-cultural France have added new dimensions to the fight against racism. Generations of citizens from former colonies in mostly Muslim north and west Africa have over decades given the nation a new face.

Gachi, the MRAP co-president and a lawyer, told those attending the presentation that 25 years ago, her younger brother Kamel failed in numerous requests for a job interview with an automaker — until he changed his name to Kevin.

Just on Monday, Gachi, a lawyer, said in an interview with The AP that she spoke with a youth with the same problem, a humiliating experience that leaves a lasting mark. She added that dignity, not just equality, is part of the equation.

Names, addresses and looks have long been a roadblock for people with origins outside France. Regular testing in private and public places of employment will be part of the new anti-discrimination effort, though the exact method is still being devised.

Borne said her plan will also offer victims of racism and discrimination the possibility to file complaints outside a police station, and in a “partially anonymous” way. She did not elaborate.

The plan will also make it “an aggravating circumstance” if someone in authority, such as a police officer, uses racist or discriminatory words to someone.

However, Borne’s plan dodges some sensitive areas, notably failing to directly tackle discrimination and racial profiling within the nation’s powerful police force.

Omer Mas Capitolin, a founder of the grassroots Community House for Supportive Development, said the measures are not sufficient.

“There is a denial of systemic discrimination,” not mentioned once in the plan, he told the AP.

His organization is one of a group of NGOs that launched a class action suit in 2021 against France’s powerful police in 2021, contending that it lawfully propagates a culture leading to systemic discrimination in identity checks. But for Mas Capitolin, who spoke on a personal level, alleged systemic discrimination goes beyond law enforcement to sectors like housing and jobs.

Mas Capitolin also criticized the timing for unveiling the plan on a day parliament opens debate on a hotly contested pension plan and on the eve of a planned protest march.

Source: French prime minister unveils plans to tackle racism – The Associated Press

Macron looks to crack down on illegal immigration with new law

The ongoing debates and responding to pressures from the right:

Macron’s centrist government unveiled the outlines of a new draft immigration law on Tuesday that will be debated formally in parliament in early 2023.

It comes just four years after a 2018 law with similar objectives, passed during Macron’s first term in office, which also aimed to take the heat out of an explosive political issue.

“It’s about integrating better and expelling better,” Macron’s hardline interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, told France Info radio on Tuesday of the new proposals.

“We want those people who work, not those who rob.”

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne opened the debate in France’s National Assembly by saying the law would allow France to “say who we want”’ and “who we don’t want” to allow permanent entry into France. “Zero immigration is neither desirable nor possible, and it’s no more realistic than unregulated immigration,” she said.

Darmanin and Macron have linked immigration to delinquency in recent weeks, with both saying that around half of petty crimes committed in Paris are by foreigners.

Speaking to the Parisien newspaper at the weekend, Macron pitched the new legislation as a means of addressing the historic rise of the far-right National Rally, which in June became the biggest opposition party in parliament.

“We need a policy that is firm and humane in line with our values,” the 44-year-old said. “It’s the best antidote to the extremes which feed off anxieties.”

Figures from the interior ministry show that France currently expels around 10 percent of migrants who have been ordered to leave the country and the rate has never been higher than 20 percent.

‘Nothing will change’

The country’s lengthy legal appeals process, procedural delays and a lack of state resources are seen as reasons for the low expulsion rate, which Darmanin has pledged to increase.

Like many European countries, France struggles to persuade countries in North and West Africa to re-admit their citizens once they are subject to an expulsion order.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who scored 41 percent in the second round of April’s presidential election, regularly accuses the government of laxity and “submerging” France with foreigners.

In her third bid for the presidency this year, she proposed changing the constitution via a referendum to set strict immigration targets and ensure French people get priority over foreigners for all state services.

“I don’t expect anything (from the new law),” she said on Tuesday. “They will talk to us again about balancing firmness and humanity. We’ve heard that for decades.

“Nothing will change… immigration in our country is completely out of control.”

A gruesome murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Paris in October caused a major political scandal after it emerged that her killer was an Algerian woman who had been ordered to leave the country.

The chaotic management of 234 migrants and asylum seekers who landed in France in November aboard the charity rescue ship Ocean Viking has also embarrassed the government.

Although the interior ministry initially said most of the adults had been refused entry to France, only a handful were detained after they lodged asylum claims and court appeals.

Legal migration route

The new draft legislation, which Darmanin has co-written, would reduce the number of appeals possible for failed asylum seekers from 12 to three and in theory speed up expulsion procedures.

It would also remove safeguards for foreigners who arrived in France as children, making it easier to expel them if they are convicted of crimes — a measure designed to tackle teenage delinquents.

And there will be measures to offer work permits to foreign workers with skills required in particular sectors of the economy, which could include the many employed illegally in the restaurant sector.

Macron’s MPs are a minority in parliament, meaning the bill will need support from the rightwing opposition Republicans party, which has criticised the proposals as too weak.

“There’s a red line in what we know about this bill which is the massive regularisation of illegal workers in short-staffed sectors,” senior MP Pierre-Henri Dumont told reporters.

France has passed 29 different laws on immigration since 1980.

People from 15 different charities and some left-wing MPs demonstrated in front of the national assembly on Tuesday to denounce what they termed the “hostile” attitude of the government to migration.

Nearly eight in 10 French people think Macron’s governments have failed to control immigration, according to a poll by the CSA survey group published by the CNews channel last month.

Around seven in 10 think there are too many foreigners in France, multiple polls this year have shown.

Source: Macron looks to crack down on illegal immigration with new law

Khan: Soccer is truly the beautiful game, unless you are a French Muslim woman who wears a hijab

Good reminder:

Thus far, the FIFA World Cup has not disappointed. Electrifying plays on the field, compelling storylines from Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, and the festive, colourful fandom in the stands. It’s called the beautiful game for a reason. Soccer has a simple, universal appeal – all you need is a ball, a couple of teammates, and voilà, the dreams are yours to make.

Except if you are a Muslim woman in France who wears a hijab. According to a decree by the French Football Federation (FFF), anyone playing, coaching or officiating on a French football pitch is banned from wearing religious symbols. For all the focus in World Cup media coverage on Qatar’s policies towards migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community, hardly anyone has made a peep about how a soccer powerhouse – France – bars Muslim women from participating in the sport simply for wearing a hijab.

France has a tortuous history of harmonizing its growing Muslim population and its official policy of secularity, or laicité. Suffice it to say that the hijab has never been welcomed in the land of liberté, égalité et fraternité. After a 2004 ban on wearing “conspicuous religious symbols,” including the hijab, in French public schools came into effect, the niqab was also banned in public spaces in 2010. Curiously, while mask mandates were implemented in France throughout the pandemic, niqabs were still subject to fines.

The FFF’s rule runs contrary to official FIFA policy, which lifted its own hijab ban in 2014. The policy has had a painful impact on many aspiring French Muslim female soccer players, who have faced a choice between the sport they love and their faith. Some have grown up in the same Paris banlieues that produced Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté. During childhood, some of these young female players faced opposition from their own conservative families, who deemed soccer too masculine. As they thrived at sport-intensive programs and club tryouts, the families gave in – only to have the FFF turn their daughters away from the pitch because of their hijabs.

Yet the FFF could not kill the spirits of these remarkable young women, or their love of the game. In response to being excluded by the FFF, Les Hijabeuses, a collective of French female Muslim soccer players, was formed in 2020 with the aim of ensuring that all women can play the sport they love. Co-president Founé Diawararecalled feeling angry and excluded when being told to leave the pitch for wearing her hijab at the age of 15: “I was trapped between my passion [for football] and something that is a huge part of my identity. It’s like they tried to tell me that I had to choose between the two,” she told The Guardian in 2021.

Les Hijabeuses have used their strong social media following to rally against the FFF’s ban. They’ve launched petitions, gathered support from the broader sports community (including Nike), and organized soccer matches outside the French Senate building as a form of protest. The members and their allies play soccer together, connect with other French teams and provide training sessions to encourage other young Muslim women to get into the sport. It is a refuge, providing a safe space for Muslims to be who they are, while playing the sport they love. They have even lobbied the FFF to overturn the ban, and are now taking them to court. Earlier this year, the French Senate tried, unsuccessfully, to codify the FFF ban into law, arguing that the hijab was a means to spread radical Islam to sports clubs. Senator Stéphane Piednoir, a ban supporter, told The New York Times that he has yet to speak with a hijab-clad athlete, comparing such an encounter to a “firefighter” listening “to pyromaniacs.”

The ban is even more galling given that France is the only European country that excludes hijabis from playing in most competitive domestic sports, while foreign players with hijabs will be allowed to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Why is France denying Olympic opportunities for its own hijab-clad athletes?

More importantly, why has the rest of the world been silent on this issue in recent weeks, especially during coverage of the World Cup? International media should be shining a spotlight on the FFF’s exclusionary policies. National soccer federations (including Canada Soccer) should be mounting a united stand against the FFF’s overt discrimination through boycotts and other measures. FIFA should sanction the FFF for violating official FIFA policy.

I have played soccer almost my entire life. I am an accredited soccer coach. But because I wear a hijab, I can’t play, coach or officiate on a soccer pitch in France. In Qatar, no problem. Let that sink in.

Sheema Khan is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Source: Soccer is truly the beautiful game, unless you are a French Muslim woman who wears a hijab

A Shrinking Town at the Center of France’s Culture Wars

Of interest and not declining rural populations of course not unique to France:

A shrinking town set among cow pastures in Brittany seems an unlikely setting for France’s soul searching over immigration and identity.

The main square is named after the date in 1944 that local resistance fighters were rounded up by Nazi soldiers, many never seen again. It offers a cafe run by a social club, a museum dedicated to the Brittany spaniel and a hefty serving of rural flight — forlorn empty buildings, their grills pulled down and windows shuttered, some for decades.

So when town council members heard of a program that could renovate the dilapidated buildings and fill much-needed jobs such as nurses’ aides and builders by bringing in skilled refugees, it seemed like a winning lottery ticket.

“It hit me like lightning,” said Laure-Line Inderbitzin, a deputy mayor. “It sees refugees not as charity, but an opportunity.”

But what town leaders saw as a chance for rejuvenation, others saw as evidence of a “great replacement” of native French people that has become a touchstone of anger and anxiety, particularly on the hard right.

In no time, tiny Callac, a town of just 2,200, was divided, the focus of national attention and the scene of competing protests for and against the plan. Today it sits at the intersection of complex issues that have bedeviled France for many years: how to deal with mounting numbers of migrants arriving in the country and how to breathe new life into withering towns, before it is too late.

As in many towns across France, Callac’s population has been in slow decline since the end of the Trente Glorieuses, the 30-year postwar growth stretch when living standards and wages rose. Today, around half the people who remain are retirees. The biggest employer is the nursing home.

A wander around downtown reveals dozens of empty storefronts, where florists, dry-cleaners and photo studios once stood. The town’s last dental office announced in July it was closing — the stress of continually turning new patients away, when her patient list topped 9,000, was too much for Françoise Méheut.

She stopped sleeping, she burst into tears over the dental chair and she turned to antidepressants before finally deciding to retire early.

“It’s a catastrophe,” Dr. Méheut said. “I have the impression of abandoning people.”

“I am selling, and no one is buying,” she added of her business. “If there was a dentist among the refugees, I would be thrilled.”

While many in town say there are no jobs, the council did a survey and found the opposite — 75 unfilled salaried jobs, from nursing assistants to contractors, despite the local 18 percent unemployment rate.

The council still hopes to carry out its plan in cooperation with the Merci Endowment Fund, an organization created by a wealthy Parisian family that had made its fortune in high-end children’s clothing and wanted to give back.

In 2016, the matriarch of the family volunteered to host an Afghan refugee in the family mansion near the Eiffel Tower. Her three sons, seeing the joy he brought to their mother’s life and the talents he offered, wanted to expand the idea broadly.

“The idea is to create a win-win situation,” said the eldest son, Benoit Cohen, a French filmmaker and author who wrote a book about the experience called “Mohammad, My Mother and Me.”

“They will help revitalize the village.”

The Merci project has proposed handpicking asylum seekers, recruiting for skills as well as a desire to live in the countryside. Then, the Cohens promise to develop a wraparound program to help them assimilate, with local French courses and apartments in refurbished buildings.

The plan also called for new community spaces and training programs for all — locals and refugees together — something that most excited Ms. Inderbitzin, the project’s local champion on the council and a teacher in the local middle school.

The town has more than 50 nonprofit clubs and associations, including one that runs the local cinema, and another that delivers food to hungry families in town.

“Social development for all — that’s in Callac’s genes,” said Ms. Inderbitzin. “It’s a virtuous circle. They could bring lots of energy, culture, youth.”

Not everyone is as excited at that prospect. A petition launched by three residents opposing the project has more than 10,000 signatures — many from far beyond Callac..

But even in town, some grumble about lack of consultation or transparency. They worry Callac will lose its Frenchness and will trade its small-town tranquillity for big-city problems. Others question the motives of a rich family in Paris meddling in their rural home.

“We aren’t lab rats. We aren’t here for them to experiment on,” said Danielle Le Men, a retired teacher in town who is starting a community group to stop the project, which she fears will bring “radical Islam” to the community.

Catching wind of the dispute, the right-wing anti-immigrant party Reconquest, run by the failed presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, organized a protest in September, warning the project would bring dangerous insecurity and complaining that it would introduce halal stores and girls in head scarves.

There was a time, she said, when she offered billiards and karaoke and kept the taps running late. But with the town’s youth departed, she recalibrated her closing time to match her remaining clientele’s schedule — 8 p.m.

“Why would we give jobs to outsiders?” she said. “We should help people here first.”

Standing on the street outside his small bar, which doubles as a cluttered antiques store, her neighbor, Paul Le Contellac, assessed the proposal from another angle.

His uncle married a refugee who had fled Spain with her family during the civil war and found shelter in this village. Later, when France was occupied by Nazi Germany, his grandmother harbored resistance fighters in her attic.

“This is a town that has always welcomed refugees,” said Mr. Le Contellac. “Callac is not ugly, but it’s not pretty either. It needs some new energy.”

While immigration may hold the potential to do that, the issue remains hotly contested, even while the migration crisis had been dampened by the pandemic.

Today, as the pandemic appears to wane, the numbers of asylum seekers arriving to France is climbing again, threatening to restore the issue’s volatility.

Since the height of the migration crisis several years ago, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has attempted to split the difference on its immigration policy.

On the one hand, it has aimed to deter asylum applicants by increasing police at the border and by cutting back some state services.

On the other, for those who are accepted as refugees, it has poured resources into French lessons and employment programs to ease their integration.

The government has also tried to disperse asylum seekers outside of Paris, where services are strained, housing is hard to find and large tent camps have sprung up.

Recently, Mr. Macron announced that he wanted to formalize the policy in a new immigration bill, sending asylum seekers from the dense urban centers, already plagued with social and economic problems, to the “rural areas, that are losing people.”

The plan is a lot like that being put in place already in Callac, which, paradoxically, has been receiving refugee families since 2015, about 40 people at present, with little or no notice, like many small French towns.

Mohammad Ebrahim heard the noise of the warring protests from his living room window, but had no idea what the commotion was about — certainly not about him, his wife and four children, who arrived a year ago.

Kurds who escaped Al Qaeda in Syria, they have felt nothing but welcome, flashing photos on their cellphones of community meals and celebrations they have been invited to. But the perks of village hospitality are offset by the logistics of living in the countryside without a car. Training, medical appointments, even regular French classes are all far away.

When he hears the plan to offer wraparound services and school in Callac, Mr. Ebrahim smiles broadly. “Then we could go to French class every day,” he said.

Callac may now prove to be a testing ground of whether a more structured approach can work and divisions be overcome.

“This became about French politics,” says Sylvie Lagrue, a local volunteer who drives refugees to doctor’s appointments and helps them set up their internet. “Now, everyone hopes this will quiet down, and we continue with the program.”

Though the project still has no official budget, timeline or target number of asylum seekers to be resettled, the town council nevertheless is tiptoeing ahead.

It recently bought a hulking abandoned stone school, rising like a ghost in the middle of town, and announced it planned to convert it into the “heart” of the project — with a refugee reception area, as well as a community nursery and a co-working space.

The Merci fund has already bought the building where the town’s last book store closed in August. It now plans to reopen the store for the community, while housing a first family of asylum seekers in the upstairs apartment.

“The beginning has to be slow,” Mr. Cohen said. “We have to see if it works. We don’t want to scare people.”

Source: A Shrinking Town at the Center of France’s Culture Wars

Rioux: Quel «dérapage»? [on Premier Legault’s comments on social cohesion]

Le Devoir’s European correspondent Christian Rioux comparing EU social cohesion concerns with those of Premier Legault.

While recognizing the differences between Canada’s (and Quebec’s) immigration selection systems and integration programs and those of EU countries, he nevertheless reverts to the same social cohesion concerns without examining the effects of Quebec political discourse and legislation that have contributed to social exclusion, not social cohesion:

« Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir », disait le Tartuffe. Convenons que ses héritiers modernes ont des formules moins élégantes que celles de Molière. Ces temps-ci, ils préfèrent parler de « dérapage ». Mais l’effet est le même. Il consiste à écarter du débat tout propos un peu dérangeant dès lors qu’il aborde une question litigieuse. L’étiquette vaut à elle seule condamnation.

Ainsi en va-t-il des récents propos de François Legault sur l’immigration. Pourtant, qu’y a-t-il de plus banal que d’affirmer comme l’a fait le premier ministre la semaine dernière qu’une forte immigration peut nuire à la « cohésion nationale » ?

On comprend que dans un pays « post-national » comme le Canada, où l’immigration a été sacralisée, ces propos créent la polémique. Mais, vu d’Europe, où le débat est ancien et plus nourri, il est évident que l’immigration massive pose partout et toujours un défi à la cohésion nationale.

Cela se vérifie à des degrés divers dans la plupart des pays européens. En France, sous l’effet d’une immigration incontrôlée et très largement issue du monde arabo-musulman, on a assisté depuis de nombreuses années à un véritable morcellement du pays. Dans toutes les grandes villes sont apparues des banlieues islamisées autrement appelées ghettos. Pas besoin de s’appeler Marine Le Pen pour le constater. Interrogé par des collègues du Monde en 2014, le président François Hollande lui-même n’avait pas hésité à le reconnaître. « Je pense qu’il y a trop d’arrivées, d’immigration qui ne devrait pas être là », disait-il. Et celui-ci de conclure : « Comment peut-on éviter la partition ? Car c’est quand même ça qui est en train de se produire : la partition. » (Un président ne devrait pas dire ça…, Gérard Davet et Fabrice Lhomme, Stock).

Certains diront évidemment qu’en France, ce n’est pas pareil. Soit. Tournons donc nos yeux vers un pays plus à notre échelle.

Avec ses 10 millions d’habitants, son économie de pointe, son climat boréal, son amour du consensus et son parti pris en faveur de l’égalité hommes-femmes, la Suède partage plusieurs points communs avec le Québec.

Il n’y a pas longtemps, dans ce petit paradis nordique, celui qui s’inquiétait de l’immigration massive était accusé de « déraper », quand il n’était pas traité de raciste. Les Suédois regardaient de haut des pays comme la France et le Danemark, soupçonnés de xénophobie. Jusqu’à ce que la réalité les rattrape. La flambée des émeutes ethniques, comme en France, et l’irruption de la violence dans les banlieues ont vite fait de les ramener sur terre. Aujourd’hui, de la social-démocratie à la droite populiste, les trois grands partis estiment qu’il en va justement de la « cohésion nationale ». C’est pourquoi ce pays, qui a toujours été particulièrement généreux à l’égard des réfugiés, a radicalement resserré ses critères d’admission et a multiplié les mesures d’intégration. L’élection sur le fil d’une majorité de droite, finalement confirmée mercredi, ne fera que conforter cette orientation.

Les belles âmes ont beau détourner le regard, en Suède comme en France, il est devenu évident qu’un lien existe (même s’il n’explique pas tout) entre l’immigration incontrôlée et la croissance d’une certaine criminalité. Les événements récents du printemps au Stade de France, où des centaines de supporters britanniques se sont fait détrousser à la pointe du couteau par des dizaines de délinquants, ont forcé le ministre de l’Intérieur à reconnaître ce dont les habitants de la Seine-Saint-Denis se doutaient depuis belle lurette.

La Suède aussi a connu une explosion de la petite criminalité et des règlements de compte entre gangs. Elle a notamment enregistré une croissance des morts par balle parmi les plus fortes en Europe. Aujourd’hui, même la gauche sociale-démocrate l’admet. Et elle s’est résolue à augmenter les effectifs policiers. Contrairement à la France, cette prise de conscience fait aujourd’hui un certain consensus dans la classe politique.

Cela n’a rien à voir avec la peur de l’Autre. Comme nombre de Français, les Suédois ont dû se rendre à l’évidence et cesser d’envisager l’immigration comme une simple question morale. Les peuples ont le droit de réglementer l’immigration sans se faire traiter à chaque fois de raciste par une gauche morale et une droite libérale qui en ont fait leur Saint-Graal.

Bien sûr, l’immigration n’est pas la même en France, en Suède et au Québec. À cause de son histoire et de sa position en Europe, la France connaît une forte immigration illégale et de regroupement familial. Naïvement et par générosité, la Suède a ouvert toutes grandes ses portes aux réfugiés et elle n’a jamais contrôlé son immigration économique. Le Québec, où l’équilibre linguistique est plus que précaire, subit des quotas d’immigration parmi les plus élevés au monde et une immigration temporaire hors de contrôle.

Il n’empêche que, malgré ces différences réelles, les mêmes causes produisent partout les mêmes effets. Ce n’est souvent qu’une question de temps.

Lentement, depuis une décennie, tous les tabous de la mondialisation se sont effrités. Ceux qui ont vécu les années 1980 se souviennent de l’enthousiasme et de la naïveté qui accompagnaient cette nouvelle phase d’expansion du capital. Nous n’en sommes plus là. L’immigration de masse demeure le dernier mythe encore vivace de cette époque.

Source: Quel «dérapage»?

Immigrant population rises in France, but so does discrimination

Interesting studies:

Two studies have released data highlighting the persistent discrimination immigrants face in France. The data reveals that although a large swath of France’s population has immigrant ancestry, discrimination in French society is still high.

Two landmark new studies in France are bursting myths about immigration at a time when xenophobic far-right discourse has gained ground. They show that the children of immigrants are increasingly melting into French society but some with African and Asian backgrounds face persistent discrimination.

Karima Simmou, French-Moroccan student at the prestigious Paris university Sciences Po, embodies the phenomenon.

She comes from a working-class family of eight children, with a mother who raised the family and a father who worked as a miner in western France. She was pushed by her family to go to the elite school.

The children and grandchildren of immigrants from Africa and Asia are well integrated in the French educational system compared with their elders, according to another report. Data show they have increasingly higher education levels than their parents, though many struggle to attain comparable educational levels to French people without immigrant heritage.

And getting jobs is harder, too: 60% of those with non-European roots hold intermediate or high-level jobs, compared with 70% of French people without direct immigrant kinship.

Ined researcher Mathieu Ichou noted two possible explanations for the hiring discrepancy.

“Several surveys, data and audit studies backed up that hiring is not favorable to minorities, and they experience discrimination. France is pretty bad regarding this issue, compared to other European countries,” he said.

Also, Mr. Ichou said, “minorities tend to be underrepresented in the French elite schools.”

Source: Immigrant population rises in France, but so does discrimination

MPI: France Reckons with Immigration Amid Reality of Rising Far Right

A few of the excerpts that I found of interest:

A Significant Increase in Immigrants’ Educational Attainment

Perhaps in part due to the efforts of successive French administrations, immigrants’ level of education has risen sharply in recent decades. In 1975, just 3 percent of immigrants had a higher education degree (which includes a postsecondary diploma or a certificate from a professionally oriented program), compared to 28 percent in 2018.

Immigrants tend to be at one end or the other of the education spectrum: Compared to the overall population, a greater share of immigrants had only a primary-level education (33 percent of the foreign born and 14 percent of the total population in 2018) or a university degree (19 percent and 22 percent respectively; see Figure 3). At the same time, the proportion of immigrants with some postsecondary education (which may include certificates from professionally oriented programs) but not a bachelor’s degree are lower than in the resident population. However, recent immigrants who have been in France for less than five years tend to be better educated.

Immigrants Who Enter as Students Increasingly Stay on to Work

In recent years, France has had one of Europe’s largest populations of international students, with 283,700 at the start of the 2018 academic year (including EU nationals), second only to the United Kingdom and representing 11 percent of France’s students in tertiary education. Between 2000 and 2018, an average of 47,400 third-country students entered France each year, with steadily increasing numbers after 2012 and as many as 65,800 in 2018, when students represented around one-quarter of all immigrants.

Many of these students stay in France for multiple years. Between 42 percent and 50 percent of international students who arrived from 2000 to 2014 continued to hold a valid residence permit five years later, a range that has remains remarkably stable over time (see Figure 5). Most were still students, although since 2006 an increasing share has obtained work permits (notably for highly qualified individuals), reflecting greater labor market integration of immigrants arriving as students. The figures decreased slightly for the cohorts that arrived in 2007 and 2008, reflecting actions by the interior and labor ministries in 2011 asking prefectures to “rigorously” examine students’ applications for change of status, although these provisions were repealed the following May, after François Hollande became president.

Conclusion: Outsized Focus at Odds with Reality

Despite these political pressures, immigration trends in France are comparable to other countries and not, as some of the far right have claimed, a reflection that the government has lost control. Immigrants represent just about 10 percent of France’s total population and the numbers have not increased dramatically in recent years, yet issues of migration were prominent during the 2022 election and appear likely to persist.

In particular, government efforts today are focused on encouraging immigration of highly educated people deemed to be good for the French economy, and limiting arrivals of everyone else. In many ways, this is simply an updated version of France’s decades-old focus on welcoming immigrants whose characteristics and skills are considered useful to the economy, as it did in the years after World War II. Yet the distinction between beneficial and detrimental migration is misplaced, both because it can be deeply hurtful to those who are deemed unwanted, but also because economic analysis by the author and others shows that family migration has led to an increase in France’s per capita gross domestic product and that asylum seekers do not burden European economies.

Political figures on France’s far right have advanced an apocalyptic and radical vision of how immigration is changing their country, which is out of step with current realities. During her campaign, Le Pen promised to stop family reunification, make it harder for children of immigrants born in France to be citizens, and limit welfare benefits to French citizens. Even in defeat, her performance in 2022 underscores how willing many French voters are to embrace these kinds of approaches.

Source: MPI: France Reckons with Immigration Amid Reality of Rising Far Right

The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France

Of interest. Haven’t found any comparable data for Canada but will check the 2021 census data when it comes out (which will have religious affiliation data):

France’s wounded psyche is the invisible character in every one of Sabri Louatah’s novels and the hit television series he wrote. He speaks of his “sensual, physical, visceral love” for the French language and of his attachment to his hometown in southeastern France, bathed in its distinctive light. He closely monitors the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections.

But Mr. Louatah does all of that from Philadelphia, the city that he began considering home after the 2015 attacks in France by Islamist extremists, which killed scores of people and deeply traumatized the country. As sentiments hardened against all French Muslims, he no longer felt safe there. One day, he was spat on and called, “Dirty Arab.”

“It’s really the 2015 attacks that made me leave because I understood they were not going to forgive us,” said Mr. Louatah, 38, the grandson of Muslim immigrants from Algeria. “When you live in a big Democratic city on the East Coast, you’re more at peace than in Paris, where you’re deep in the cauldron.”

Ahead of elections in April, President Emmanuel Macron’s top three rivals — who are expected to account for nearly 50 percent of the vote, according to polls — are all running anti-immigrant campaigns that fan fears of a nation facing a civilizational threat by invading non-Europeans. The issue is top of their agenda, even though France’s actual immigration lags behind that of most other European countries.

The problem barely discussed is emigration. For years, France has lost highly educated professionals seeking greater dynamism and opportunity elsewhere. But among them, according to academic researchers, is a growing number of French Muslims who say that discrimination was a strong push factor and that they felt compelled to leave by a glass ceiling of prejudice, nagging questions about their security and a feeling of not belonging.

The outflow has gone unremarked upon by politicians and the news media even as researchers say it shows France’s failure to provide a path for advancement for even the most successful of its largest minority group, a “brain drain” of those who could have served as models of integration.

“These people end up contributing to the economy of Canada or Britain,” said Olivier Esteves, a professor at the University of Lille’s center on political science, public law and sociology, which surveyed 900 French Muslim émigrés and conducted in-depth interviews with 130 of them. “France is really shooting itself in the foot.”

French Muslims, estimated at 10 percent of the population, occupy a strangely outsize place in the campaign — even if their actual voices are seldom heard. It is not only an indication of the lingering wounds inflicted by the attacks of 2015 and 2016, which killed hundreds, but also of France’s long struggle over identity issues and its unresolved relationship with its former colonies.

Source: The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France