Opinion: France’s immigration policy is an exception – of tolerance


Despite recent criticism for its anti-immigration tendencies, France is less restrictive than other European countries

Immigrants demonstrate in Paris

In itself, the French image could mislead you. But compared to the rest of the European family album, it becomes much clearer. Expulsions of members of the Roma community last summer, the growing popularity of extreme right-wing Marine Le Pen, the possibility of expelling foreigners convicted of crimes: all these developments were quickly cited as evidence of a resurgence of xenophobic tendency. But these tensions in France are low compared to the more radical identity movements emerging in the rest of Europe.

And the new European presidency is a symbol of this change. Since January 1, Hungary has been at the top of the European Union. The country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is known for his aggressive nationalism: both his territorial provocations towards his Slovak neighbor, such as the issuance of Hungarian passports to the Magyar minority in Slovakia; and by ethnic pressure against minorities in Hungary, in particular the Roma.

“Hungary has not recovered from the questioning of Europe’s Christian roots,” said Laurent Wauquiez, French Deputy Minister for European Affairs. If the territorial disputes are still dominant in Eastern Europe, in Western Europe it is religion, in particular Islam, which animates the tensions.

And these tensions are so strong that they are pushing traditionally open countries to question their models of integration: the Netherlands, where Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party has become the third political force in the country; Germany, where, after using national sentiment during the Greek crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned the country’s multiculturalism.

Further north, in Finland (just four months before the general elections) and Sweden (where it was once officially banned), xenophobic attitudes are on the rise in the polls. And the heart of Europe is no different. The evolution of Switzerland is very important, because, according to an expert on Europe, the country is often an indicator of future immigration policies. In November, just a year after a referendum banning Muslim minarets, the Swiss voted to expel foreign criminals.

It is no coincidence that nationalist and even xenophobic tendencies have gained ground over the past two years. For Wauquiez: “the financial crisis has revived fears linked to identity”. “The difficult economic and financial environment makes people more suspicious of immigrants, and their attitude towards illegal immigration is hardening,” adds European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom. But she also accuses governments: “Often a lack of political leadership can open the door to populist approaches to immigration. Extremism finds fertile ground where politicians fail to engage in real debate and fail to provide concrete answers to issues such as the integration of immigrants and illegal immigration. management.”

In the meantime, words are not the only ones to harden when it comes to immigration. Practices follow suit, with the possible return to a “European fortress”. Britain and the Netherlands were not the only countries to toughen their immigration policies: the number of residence permits granted in the EU in 2009 fell by 9% to 2.3 million.

In a union where each state remains master of its immigration policies, the European Commission can only act indirectly to help free movement of non-European workers. “Europe needs legal immigration and will have even more in the future due to negative demographic trends,” says Malmstrom. Many service jobs depend on it as well as high-tech sectors that already lack researchers and engineers. “Closing the door is not in our interest,” said the commissioner.

But France is not following the European trend. The financial crisis does not seem to have weakened its choice of “chosen” and “concerted” immigration with a dozen countries. The fall in residence permits was barely visible in 2009 (-3%) with 175,000 permits, 75% more than in Germany. And for the first 11 months of 2010, 182,000 authorizations have already been issued, as many as in 2008. A sign of France’s openness, the reception of foreign students has a lot to do with it.

But the image of France’s immigration policy is given by its more restrictive approach to asylum (Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has undertaken to limit to “real dissidents”) and deportation. illegal immigrants.

Approved by Parliament in early October and directed to the Senate in February, the law would increase the length of detention of deported foreigners from 32 to 45 days, the time needed for the country of origin to approve re-entry. It is far from being the hardest in Europe: a year ago, Spain reduced it to 60 days, just like Portugal; In Germany, it can be up to 18 months.

For Gérard Longuet, president of the UMP group in power in the Senate: “When we look at immigration practices in other European capitals, Paris should not really be ashamed. The Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux likes to repeat this anecdote: in the European pact on immigration and asylum pushed by France and adopted in 2008, it was the Spanish government led by the Socialists who demanded and obtained that “illegal immigrants on the territory of a Member State” do not just “risk” but are “obliged” to leave the country.

Read it original article in France

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