a salutary reality check
No, France is not particularly attractive. No, France was not particularly welcoming. Yes, immigration is constantly increasing. It is with the ambition of “set the facts” that François Héran, professor at the Collège de France on the Migrations and Societies chair, publishes Immigration, the great denial. And, as often, these undermine the fantasies and alarmist political speeches about a France under attack, with a threatened identity.
At a time when Parliament is preparing to debate yet another immigration law, this reality check sounds like a warning of the pitfalls of a political posture that would make untenable promises by attacking mirages, “under penalty of lulling the French with illusions”. Some 7 million immigrants live in France today, or about 10.3% of the population, compared to 4.5 million in 2000. An increase of 53% when, in the same interval, the French population did not grow than 9%.
“There have never been so many immigrants in France”underlines Mr. Héran, who attributes this continuous progress to “the extension of the logic of rights and the globalization of student mobility, but also, to a lesser extent, the request for asylum and the recruitment of qualified workers”. Political alternations, on the other hand, have little impact on this curve, because France is part of a global dynamic. Thus, the author recalls that the number of immigrants on the planet increased by 62% between 2000 and 2020.
“Debunking the Myth”
If France stands out, it is certainly not because of its power of attraction. Mr. Héran illustrates his point through the example of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan migration. Only 18% of the 6.8 million Syrian refugees managed to apply for asylum in Europe, “including 53% in Germany and 3% in France”. Similarly, 400,000 Iraqis sought refuge in the European Union (EU) between 2014 and 2020, including 48% in Germany and 3.5% in France. Over the same period, only 8.5% of Afghan refugees in the EU asked for protection from France, when 36% of them went to Germany. “We must therefore deflate the myth of a ‘too attractive’ France”insists Mr. Héran, recalling that apart from the three aforementioned nationalities, France received 18% of asylum applications from the EU between 2014 and 2020, more or less the equivalent of its economic weight in the EU.
But asylum only has a partial impact on migratory flows. Mr. Héran looks at residence permits, the volume of which increased between 2005 and 2021, and he finds that refugees account for only 24% of this increase. More than half of it stems from student migration, and 27% from labor migration. At a time when the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, says he is in favor of “restrictions” on family reunification, the author emphasizes that this migration is down 10%. Our rulers fear only one thing, “hijack the electorate”regrets the author, who calls for “raise the level of the debate”.
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