Immigrants’ occupational segregation in France: “brown-collar” jobs or a Sub-Saharan African disadvantage?

Unfortunately behind a paywall but looks interesting:

Large-scale labour migration is considered a recent phenomenon in most European countries; however, immigrants have been an integral part of the French labour-force nearly as long as in the United States. Numerous studies document Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ employment and wage disadvantages in France; however, few investigate an important aspect of Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ integration – occupational segregation. Using 2011 French census data, I examine Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ occupational segregation. I find that all immigrants are concentrated, but only Sub-Saharan Africans are concentrated in low-skilled work regardless of citizenship. Department-level regression analyses measuring occupational segregation show that after controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, Sub-Saharan Africans are most segregated. Control variables explain less of Sub-Saharan African women’s segregation than any other group indicating that they experience more discrimination in the labour market than even Sub-Saharan African men. Future research using longitudinal data is needed to determine if these results reflect a persistent disadvantage.

Source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01419870.2019.1686162?journalCode=rers20

France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

One of the better summaries. Too dirigiste IMO in picking sectors with rigid quotas rather than the greater flexibility of a points system that values both specific skills shortages and general human capital and adaptability:

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the “immigration plan” to the French parliament on Wednesday, where they re expected to spark much debate.

“We want to take back control of our migration policy,” Philippe said at a press conference, unveiling a series of measures which he said aimed to strengthen France’s “sovereignty”.

It comes after President Emmanuel Macron had signalled a tougher line on immigration in the second half of his mandate, arguing the government must stop voters drifting to the far-right.

“France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well,” he said. France received a record 122,743 asylum requests last year, up 22 percent from the year before.

Among the measures Philippe announced was a toughening up of the rules around how asylum seekers and migrants can access healthcare in France.

Asylum seekers in France can access vital healthcare via France’s Aide medicale d’Etat(AME). According to AFP some 318,000 benefit from the system each year.

But Macron himself has said he wants to end cases where foreigners arrive in France on a three month tourist visa but stay in the country and can access healthcare via AME.

The government also intends to toughen checks on those migrants who claim benefits, with suggestions that some asylum seekers have been able to claim two types on state benefits.

The government will also impose a three month “waiting period” (delai de carence) before asylum seekers can access the basic PUMa (protection universelle maladie) health cover, which is for accessible to anyone who resides in France.

Currently asylum seekers can apply to access the PUMa system as soon as they have lodged their application.

The French PM also announced that the squalid sprawling migrant camps on the northern edge of Paris would be cleared out “before the end of the year.”

He also reiterated a plan to double the number of foreign students in France to 500,000 by 2027.

Quotas for industries in need of migrant workers

But the measures drawn up by the government don’t just revolve around making France a harder place to be for asylum-seekers.

The government wants certain sectors, which are most in need of workers, to be able to recruit migrant workers. The PM has already said that the idea of quotas for economic migrants in certain industries should no longer be taboo.

Philippe confirmed that parliament would in future set annual sectoral “goals or quotas” on skilled migration from non-EU countries, similar to the systems in place in Canada and Australia.

The quotas will be based on a list of professions in which employers would be exempted from having to prove that the job cannot be filled by a French person.

But a government statement detailing the reforms made clear that the new caps on economic migration, which accounted for only 33,000 of the 255,956 residence permits awarded in 2018, “will not be restrictive”.

“The idea is to have quantified targets, or quotas,” the Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud told BFMTV on Tuesday morning.

“This is about France hiring based on its needs. It’s a new approach, similar to what is done in Canada or Australia,” Penicaud told BFM television.

The list of sectors in which companies will be able to recruit migrant workers, will be updated each year in order to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of employers in different regions of France.

Currently employers have to justify why a French citizen cannot be hired in a complex administrative process, which resulted in around 33,000 economic migrants being granted visas last year.

Construction, hotels and restaurants, and some retailing sectors have long complained of a shortage of people willing to take what is often low-paying work.

Information technology and engineering industries, by contrast, say France does not produce enough qualified candidates.

Penicaud did not say how many foreign workers would be granted visas, nor if an applicant’s nationality would be taken into account.

France also intends to put more resources into reducing the time it takes for asylum applications to be processed.

The government passed a law in 2018 aiming to being the average time down from one year to six months, but according to Le Monde newspaper it has failed to have any impact.

The French government also intends to push for greater European cooperation to secure the EU’s borders.

Macron has noted France had seen a sharp increase in the numbers of people asking for asylum since the 2017 presidential election and said much tighter  European cooperation was needed.

“There is not enough cooperation in Europe and we need to look at this migratory phenomenon and take decisions,” he said.

The French president, whose first term expires in 2022, is keenly aware that his biggest political rival remains Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party which has built its popularity on a strong anti-immigration stance.

“In order to be able to welcome everyone properly, we should not be too attractive a country,” said Macron.

Family reunification policies – where someone can gain the right to live and work in France on the basis of a spouse or member of their family being here – will not be touched, Philippe added.

Source: France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

France Announces Tough New Measures on Immigration

One of the better summaries:

President Emmanuel Macron of France tried to seize control of the issue of immigration on Wednesday, as his government announced steps to make the country less attractive to migrants while cracking open the door to skilled foreign workers.

The combined moves were a bid by Mr. Macron to wrest the issue from his main political challengers, the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen, which for years has skillfully used immigration in its political ascent.

With critical municipal elections just months away, Mr. Macron has shifted right and begun talking tough on immigration, especially on the perceived abuses of France’s generous social welfare system, hoping to keep Ms. Le Pen’s party, formerly known as the National Front, at bay.

Among Mr. Macron’s new get-tough measures is a provision that asylum seekers would have to wait three months before qualifying for non-urgent health care.

France to Fix Annual Limits for Professional Immigration

Seems a bit too government driven to succeed and respond to market needs in a timely fashion, in contrast to greater role for employers in Canada and Australia (and provinces in the case of Canada):

France plans to set annual quotas for professional immigration, fixing limits for job areas where the country lacks workers with the necessary expertise, Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud said in an interview on BFM TV.

The system will be “a new approach, a little like the approach that Canada and Australia use, it’s quite similar,” Penicaud said. The goal is to better match professional migrants and unmet staffing needs than under the current system, according to the minister.

The government will start talks with social partners and regions in coming weeks to determine the requirements, the minister said. France will draw up a list of job areas where it lacks sufficiently trained workers, and will offer work visas for a defined period and job. The new system should be in place by summer of next year, Penicaud said.

The number of professional migrants to France currently stands at 33,000 a year, and Penicaud doesn’t expect “great changes” to that number because of the new rules. “France will recruit according to its needs,” Penicaud said.

Penicaud mentioned roofers and geometricians as examples of where France lacks trained staff. The government’s priority remains to train 900,000 job seekers next year as well as young people to fulfill all available jobs, she said.

The minister said the decline in French unemployment is encouraging, and should economic conditions not change “too much,” it’s reasonable to expect the drop to continue through to the end of the year.

‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

Yet another manifestation of France continuing debates over the hijab, one unfortunately that has crossed to Quebec and its Bill 21:
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has weighed in on the Muslim veil controversy, recently reignited by President Emmanuel Macron, by publishing a caricature of him ignoring the alleged Islamization of the French society.

The cartoon – relatively innocent by the standards of the weekly – features a row of sad-looking women, donning Muslim veils, with Macron in front stating: “That’s not my business.” The picture is dubbed “Islamic republic on the move,” in a clear nod to the president’s party – Republic on the Move.

View image on Twitter
Not uncommon for Charlie Hebdo pieces, the cartoon sparked a fierce debate. Many accused the magazine of “drifting to Fascism” and producing quality content for the “far right.” Others, however, lauded the magazine’s ability to exercise the “free speech” and to stick to the traditions of the political caricature.

Muslim veil row reignited

The cartoon refers to the debate on the Muslim veil, an issue raging in France for years. The controversy made fresh headlines on October 11, when a headscarf-clad Muslim woman showed up at the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, accompanying her son’s class during a field trip. The woman was confronted by a politician from Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally, Julien Odoul, who demanded she remove her veil.

The woman’s outfit, Odoul claimed, was a deliberate “provocation” that cannot be tolerated in wake of the recent stabbing of four French policemen. The woman, identified as Fatima E., has filed a complaint over Odoul’s attack since the incident, which she said left the class distressed and traumatized.

While full-face Muslim garments – as well as other kinds of masks – are banned in public spaces in France, headscarves are fine to wear. Still, they are prohibited in public schools “in the spirit of secularism,” alongside with other explicitly religious accessories, such as Jewish kippahs and large Christian crosses. Yet, there’s no law in France that forbids women from wearing headscarves – or anything else they please – during the field trips of their children.

Ambiguous stance of the Elysee

As the France-wide scandal grew, with some calling for a full veil ban while other urged the Elysee to protect the country’s “secularism,” Macron weighed in on the issue, warning against “stigmatizing”Muslims or somehow linking Islam with terrorism. “There is a lot of irresponsibility among political commentators… Communalism is not terrorism.”

But on October 24 he managed to reignite the veil row, stating issue was not “his business” altogether – or at least that’s what was ripped out of context and widely publicized by the French media, including Charlie Hebdo.

“Wearing of headscarf in public spaces is not my business, however, in public services, at school and while educating children, headscarf issue is my business. That is what secularism is about,” Macron said, adding that in certain neighborhoods in France, “some people use the headscarf as a symbol to break one’s connection with the republic.”

Macron’s statement seems to have left virtually everyone dissatisfied. Some said it was the first time in the history of the Republic that its leader said a public matter was not the state’s business, while others said the country needs a strong president, not Pontius Pilate. Macron’s stance on the veil issue was itself met with a mixed reaction, as some found his statement too weak and pandering to the Muslim community, while others, on the contrary, believed it to be ‘Islamophobic’ in essence.

Source: ‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France

Sigh… Hopefully Quebec politicians won’t pick up on this, applying a ban to mothers on school field trips:

The debate around women wearing the Islamic headscarf has divided French politicians again, with France’s right wing Senate leader Gérard Larcher calling for President Emmanuel Macron to revise the law when it comes to religious neutrality in schools.

“It’s without a doubt a difficult subject,” Larcher said in an interview with France 2 Televisionon Tuesday night.

“But it is an essential subject, and we expect the President to federate and to make people of Muslim origin and religion feel just as much as part of the Republic as atheists, Catholics and Jews,” he said.

A bill sponsored by Les Republicans on maintaining religious neutrality within staff in the public school sector is up for a vote in the Senate, as early as next week.

“There is a need to discuss neutrality in public schools, without hate, without weakness. The subject has not been dealt with sufficiently,” he stressed.

During question time on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed the National Assembly, rejecting accusations that the government had an ambiguous stance when it came to religion in schools.

Philippe said the government preferred to focus on avoiding radicalisation, and school absence because of religious community pressure.

He was attempting to head off a new controversy over the question of secularism and whether or not to allow mothers wearing the Islamic headscarf to accompany their children’s classes on school outings.

Ruling party divided on issue

The French state and church were officially separated by law in 1905 to give form to the concept of secularism rooted in the 1789 French Revolution.

In 2004, the government prohibited the wearing of conspicuous religions symbols in public schools and banned the hijab, a garment that covers a woman’s hair but leaves her face exposed, from classrooms and government offices.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer stressed on Sunday that “the law does not prohibit women wearing headscarves to accompany children”, referring to a state council ruling from 2013.

But he also indicated that “the headscarf itself is not desirable in our society” because of “what it says about the status of women, what it says about our values.”

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye also weighed in, saying it was important to allow space for exchanges between women who wear headscarves and those who do not, as this promoted “inclusivity”.

Minister suggests Islamist provocation

Two incidents in the past week have lead to a further revival of this debate.

Last Friday, far-right National Rally (RN) minister Julien Odoul provoked widespread outrage when he posted a video on Twitter of him confronting a woman who accompanied pupils last Friday to the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte in eastern France.

Citing “secular principles” in the wake of the killings in Paris this month of four police staff by a radicalised convert to Islam, he insisted the woman, whose son was among the group, remove her headscarf.

Members of the RN then walked out of the chamber before issuing a press statement denouncing “an Islamist provocation”.

Fatima E., speaking to the press for the first time since the incident told France Info on Tuesday that she thought it was a joke until she saw how the students were reacting.

“They were really shocked and traumatised,” she said, and even though she didn’t want to give in, she eventually realized it was better if she left the room, only to be confronted in the corridor by another former member of the National Rally party.

“I was shaking from head to toe,” she said, going on to say that she now has a bad opinion of “what is called the Republic”.

Regional parliament speaker Marie-Guite Dufay, criticised Odoul’s actions, saying neither the law of the country nor the rules of the chamber prohibited a member of the public wearing a headscarf.

Dufay denounced a “surge of hatred” and what she described as “undignified behaviour” on the part of a lawmaker.

Fire station refuses school visit

Then on Monday, a visit by a group of school students to the main fire station in Creil, north of Paris, was cancelled outright because two of the mothers accompanying the group were wearing an Islamic hijab.

The director of Regional Fire and rescue service (SDIS) said it was a simple case of misinterpretation on behalf of the fire station chief and that it was regrettable that it had happened.

“The women were wearing a simple headscarf, known as hijab,” Eric de Valroger President of the SDIS told AFP.

“I think the chief was just trying to do his job, and apply the law,” he went on.

One of the women made a complaint to the fire service, saying she was “shocked” over their refusal to allow her to enter the building.

Valroger, who is also the vice-president of the Republicans party in the Val d’Oise region later said the woman had since spoken to the fire station chief and he had apologized and things had calmed down.

Source: New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France

France debates immigration as rebels in Macron’s party break ranks

Of note and to follow the debate:

When French President Emmanuel Macron last month announced a tougher stance on immigration, he immediately faced a backlash from within his own party. Since then, Macron has tried to present a united front ahead of Monday’s parliamentary debate.

In the past few weeks, Macron’s centrist government has pulled out all the stops to try to smooth over the divisions that appeared within the president’s La République en Marche (LREM) party after the French leader in September announced a tougher stance on immigration, saying France “cannot host everyone”.

The announcement didn’t go down well with some of the party’s more left-leaning members and resulted in a rebellion, of sorts. In a bid to muster up a united LREM front ahead of an October 7 debate in the National Assembly (lower house), Macron and his ministers have hosted numerous working seminars, parliamentary group meetings and even a working breakfast at the prime minister’s offices.

The first cracks in the LREM party armour appeared a day after Macron made his announcement on September 16. An open letter signed by the party’s left-wing members began to spread on social media, underscoring the advantages and benefits of the successful integration of immigrants.

F24’s Clovis Casali reports on France’s contentious debate over immigration

“The question is not about how many people we can host but how we can better integrate them,” they wrote, noting that “every study, from the OECD to INSEE (the French statistics office), shows that immigration has a positive impact on a country’s economy”.

The signatories insisted that the parliamentary debate on immigration should not be hijacked by those trying to profit off “fantasy immigration-Islam-crime links” and by fuelling “hatred against all Muslim citizens”.

A day later, a second open letter, signed by 35 left-leaning LREM members, was published. But this time the lawmakers wanted to shoot down any suggestion that the country’s cherished healthcare system was the reason why France has experienced such a steep rise in the number of asylum demands. France received 122,743 asylum requests in 2018, up 22 percent from the year before.

“To let people think that the benefits of our healthcare system are the reason for why we are seeing such an influx in immigration is a mistake,” they wrote.

It’s important to uphold our values, because co-opting the talking points of the [far-right] National Rally will not cause them to lose any support among voters,” Jean-François Cesarini, an LREM lawmaker who signed both of the open letters, told FRANCE 24.

Reining in the rebels

In light of the strong reactions within his own party, Macron and his government have gone all out to try to rein in the most rebellious of the LREM lawmakers. While the interior ministry hosted a working seminar, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has assisted in a number of parliamentary group meetings and hosted a working breakfast in his Matignon offices.

Meanwhile, the LREM has created a parliamentary discussion group on immigration and asylum. According to a source close to the matter, the group was set up to take advantage of the current divide within LREM, where “those on the left will work on integration issues and those on the right on tougher rules for the right to asylum”.

Addressing the National Assembly on Monday evening, Philippe told lawmakers that the government does not seek to crack down on immigration “as a whole” but rather to simplify some processes and improve the situations of those who’ve moved to France legally. He did, however, say that France wants to crack down on human traffickers and illegal migration.

“I’m not afraid of considering quotas,” he said, adding that authorities must remain in control of the process.

“We must fight abuses and fraud, and make the criteria more strict where necessary,” said Philippe.

The French senate will debate the issue of immigration on Wednesday.

Source: France debates immigration as rebels in Macron’s party break ranks

Jacques Chirac’s courage: Acknowledging France’s role in the Holocaust

Good reminder by Erna Paris:

“The criminal madness of the [Nazi] occupier was seconded by the French, by the French state. Those black hours soiled our history forever. … France … committed the irreparable.”

These words were spoken by French president Jacques Chirac on July 16, 1995, and in the days since his death, he deserves credit for moral courage. The occasion was the anniversary of the infamous Vélodrome d’Hiver roundups of Parisian Jews on July 16 and 17, 1942, when French police incarcerated more than 13,000 Jewish men, women and children in a sports stadium on orders of the occupying Nazis. Before the war ended, 76,000 Jews had been deported to Nazi concentration camps with French collaboration. Only about 3,000 returned.

Everyone understood the significance of Mr. Chirac’s words. He said France was responsible. In speaking from the highest office, he exploded the postwar myth that the terrors committed on French soil were uniquely the work of the occupying Nazis and their collaborationist henchmen in Vichy and had nothing to do with the true France, which had resided in London with the government-in-exile of General Charles de Gaulle from 1940 until 1944 while aided at home by the French Resistance. In effect, Mr. Chirac had shattered the half-century-long taboo against an official acknowledgment of the truth.

The birth and demise of France’s long-standing fairy tale remains instructive, for all nations fashion a historical narrative of who they are and were, especially after times of crisis, and their stories ordinarily retain their power until overwhelmed by undeniable evidence. In the latter category, the following was fact: From May, 1940, France was occupied by the Nazis and governed at Vichy by General Philippe Pétain, a hero of the First World War. Pétain was adored by a majority of the French, and the collaboration of his government with the Nazis, including police actions against Jews, was broadly accepted as national protection. Yes, there was resistance. As historians later verified, about 1 per cent of the population participated in military-style resistance networks, just as about 1 per cent willingly participated in the collaboration by marching around in real or virtual jack boots helping the Nazis carry out atrocities. As for the rest of the population, they made small gestures in either direction or sat on the proverbial fence waiting to see which way the wind would blow.

Gen. de Gaulle created the myth of an all-encompassing resistance to the Nazis because he believed a shared narrative of winning the war would promote peace among his divided countrymen. On June 14, 1944, the day he landed at Bayeux, he identified himself and his resistance with “France” and with the “final victory of the Allies.” Only a tiny handful of traitors had sold out to the enemy. These would be duly tried and excised from the collective.

The die was cast, but still the story sat uneasily, for untold numbers of known upper- and lower-level collaborators had moved into positions of prominence in the postwar era. On the other hand, everyone won, including the collaborators who now said they had been playing a “double game” and had in reality been resisting.

Unsurprisingly, the first accurate history of the Vichy era did not appear until 1972 and was written by a foreigner, U.S. historian Robert Paxton. A second groundbreaking book, Vichy France and the Jews, followed in 1981, also written by Mr. Paxton, with a colleague, Canadian historian Michael Marrus. Notably, both works caused scandal and recriminations that eventually set in motion a train of trials, starting with the Nazi Klaus Barbie, in 1987, culminating with the Vichy-era French bureaucrat, Maurice Papon, in 1998, and underscored in 1995 with the first official statement by a French president on the subject of France’s complicity in the Holocaust.

Because timing and perceived sincerity matter, Mr. Chirac’s formal acknowledgment of his country’s mythologized history was a standout moment in the life of postwar France. Fifty years later, his sorrowful, truthful evocation would help his countrymen recalibrate long-time historical distortions and face their nation’s history, however painful.

Trapped inside a contemporary world of lesser moral clarity, we may admire Mr. Chirac’s principled act.

Macron’s national debate on immigration plays into the hands of the French far right

To note. Not a unique risk, limited to France and Macron

Nearly halfway into his rocky first term as French president, Emmanuel Macron has concocted a new plan to bolster his flagging approval ratings: a sweeping national debate on immigration. Starting on Monday, the French parliament is slated to begin a wide-ranging discussion of French and European migration policy. It comes just weeks after Macron told legislators from his party, La République En Marche, that he believes immigration to be a major concern of working-class people – something they apparently “endure”, along with poverty and unemployment. “The question,” he told the parliamentarians, “is whether we want to be a bourgeois party or not.”

It’s unclear what exactly will come of the debate. Just in case legislators are looking for inspiration, though, the president has floated a handful of his own ideas – and they give a sense of where this is headed. He has suggested that state medical aid for undocumented immigrants is too generous, that some are abusing the right of asylum, and that deportations sometimes take too long to process because of legal challenges. “France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well,” Macron said on Wednesday.

The debate taking shape is a dangerous one. But it’s also based on a phoney premise: France is not “hosting everyone” seeking refuge and asylum. It’s not even coming close. Since taking office more than two years ago, Macron has criticised the brutal migration policies of countries such as Italy and Hungary, while France has maintained a hardline stance of its own. Over the past four years, since the peak of the refugee crisis, France has approved far fewer asylum requests than neighbouring Germany. According to government figures, it granted asylum to just 33,000 people in 2018. That’s a slight increase on previous years, but still represents only a quarter of all requests.

What’s more, the share of France’s population that was born overseas has hardly increased over the past four decades. Immigrants currently make up just under 10% of the French population – only two percentage points more than in 1975.

By framing immigration as a problem for the working class – a scourge on the same level as unemployment and poverty – Macron is echoing the classic narrative of the far right. The Front National – which rebranded as Rassemblement National (the National Rally) last year – has long charged France’s ruling class with abandoning the country by allowing in too many foreigners. According to its warped logic, immigrants and elites share responsibility for France’s social decay and ongoing ills. With the complicity of top politicians and civil servants, the story goes, immigrants have driven up unemployment and racked up a costly welfare tab, depriving the native-born working and middle classes of much-needed work and state aid. This is the very essence of the National Rally’s brand of xenophobic populism – its ideological bread and butter.

But the notion that low-income French people are simply crying out for the government to deport more immigrants or deny them benefits is spurious. It is true that a wide-ranging annual opinion study found that nearly two-thirds of French people said there were “too many” foreigners in the country. However, when asked to identify their top political priorities, people ranked environmental protection first, followed by the future of the welfare state and questions linked to purchasing power, such as wages and taxes.

These are all issues at the heart of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protest movement. A near-perfect incarnation of France’s working-class anger and sense of abandonment, the yellow vests have called for the reintroduction of the wealth tax on assets above €1.3m, which was repealed by Macron’s government; a hike in the minimum wage; and more investment in public services such as schools and hospitals. Yet rather than address any of these pressing issues, Macron has instead opted to tackle something that nobody, except National Rally sympathisers, is asking for.

It’s also a dangerous gambit politically. By steering the national debate toward issues such as the cost of healthcare for undocumented immigrants, Macron is aiming to beat the National Rally at its own game. If the past is any guide, though, such an approach risks only further legitimising the ideas of Marine Le Pen and the rest of the far right. In 2009 the then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, launched a widely panned national debate on French immigration and identity. It was based on many of the same faulty premises as next week’s debate – designed, in part, to neutralise the growing threat of the Front National. Instead, the ensuing media circus gave credibility to the myth that ordinary people’s suffering is tied to the presence of foreigners or insufficiently integrated citizens. Three years later, in the presidential election, the Front National had its best ever result in terms of vote share (although it would do even better in 2017).

Source: Macron’s national debate on immigration plays into the hands of the French far right

France’s Macron wants to take a tougher stand on immigration

History suggests that this strategy will not work, as noted in the article:
French President Emmanuel Macron said France needs to toughen up on immigration. He argued that the government must end its current “lax” approach in order to stop voters from drifting to the far right.

Setting out his priorities for the second half of his mandate on Monday evening, Macron said that his centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party risked being seen as “bourgeois” unless it tackled the issue of immigration.

“By claiming to be humanist we are sometimes too lax,” he told a meeting of his ministers and ruling party representatives, claiming that France’s asylum laws were being “misused” by people-smuggling networks and “people who manipulate” the system.

The question for his three-year-old party, which has struggled to establish a presence in small-town and rural France, was “whether we want to be a bourgeois party or not,” Macron was quoted by party members as telling the meeting.

“The bourgeois have no problem with this (immigration). They don’t come up against it. The working classes live with it. For decades the left didn’t want to deal with this problem so the working class migrated to the far right.”

“We’re like the three little monkeys, we don’t want to see,” he said, referring to the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” dictum represented by three monkeys with their hands over their eyes, ears and mouth.

An Ispos/Sopra Steria poll on divisions in French society published Tuesday showed that 63 percent of respondents felt there were “too many foreigners in
France.”

Anti-foreigner sentiment was strongest among working-class respondents, with 88 percent saying they were too many immigrants.

Sixty-six percent also said they felt that immigrants did not try hard enough to integrate.

Chasing Le Pen voters

During the 2017 presidential campaign, Macron was fulsome in his praise of the welcome extended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to over a million
Syrian refugees, crediting her and the German people with having “saved our collective dignity.”

But since coming to office, he has taken a tough line on so-called economic migrants who leave home in search of better opportunities abroad, drawing a
firm distinction between them and refugees fleeing war or persecution.

France last year received a record 122,743 asylum requests, up 22 percent compared to 2017.

“The entry flows into Europe have never been so low and the asylum requests have never been so high,” Macron complained on Monday, arguing that France
needed a system that was both “more efficient and more humane.”

Macron’s remarks saw him compared with former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, who also tried to court far-right voters while in office by talking tough on immigration but without significantly changing French laws.

Sarkozy later failed to secure his re-election.

Jerome Sainte-Marie, president of Pollingvox research firm, warned that Macron risked setting a trap for himself.

“Once you have talked about immigration, once you have launched that debate, people expect action,” he said.

“Otherwise he will have the same difficulty with voters that Sarkozy had,” he said.

French media and opposition parties see his latest remarks as linked to local elections next March and a signal that he is preparing to seek a second term in 2022.

Polls show that since 2017, Macron’s core support has shifted from the centre towards the right.

“By sending a signal on immigration a few months before the local elections, he is trying to reassure this important part of his electorate,” Sainte-Marie said.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, whom Macron beat in 2017, was scathing of the president’s tough-sounding rhetoric on an issue that has been her party’s bread-and-butter for the last three decades.

“For the past two and a half years, he has seen nothing and heard nothing on the misuse of asylum laws,” she told BFM television Tuesday.

“Emmanuel Macron is clearly launching into the presidential election,” she said.

A Communist member of the French Senate, Eliane Assassi, accused Macron of whipping up fear among voters about immigrants and warned him, referring to
the far right, that voters “prefer the original to the copy.”

Source: France’s Macron wants to take a tougher stand on immigration