Status Quo of France's Immigration Landscape

November 07, 2023
In recent years, France has emerged as a leading destination for migrants in Europe; for instance, in 2021, one in every 10 people in France was a migrant. Over the last five years, there has been a notable increase in the number of migrants from South Asia, particularly Bangladesh. While France has historically been recognized for its commitment to human rights, new laws passed in 2023 indicate a shift toward stricter immigration policies. The rationale behind enacting these new laws focused mainly on the migrants’ inability to integrate into French society. France has faced numerous terrorist attacks involving migrants in the past few years. A noteworthy event took place on October 13 this year, leading to the tragic death of French teacher Dominique Bernard. The perpetrator is a Muslim migrant who arrived in France at the age of 5. While the attack was notably influenced by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, it has certainly reignited tensions surrounding the issue of immigration, and as a result many are calling for tightening immigration laws. The Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin commented on the incident, “If someone does not conform to the values of the Republic, we must be able to deport them.” In 2021, Saif Rahman, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi national, was deported due to his affiliations with Islamic State. There are also other instances of Bangladeshi nationals facing expulsion, although such cases are rare. Settling in France is becoming increasingly challenging for migrants, with stricter laws being enacted in response to such incidents. The effect of these incidents is clearly manifest in the French Government's newly proposed immigration bill, the second of its kind under Emmanuel Macron’s presidency. It aims to simplify immigration litigation, expedite the asylum process, mandate a minimum level of French proficiency for multi-year residence permits, enforce mandatory fingerprinting, tighten residency requirements for long-term permit renewal, and prohibit the administrative detention of minors under 16. The bill itself has become a locus of controversy between the country’s political right and left. The National Court for the Right to Asylum (CNDA), located in Montreuil, east of Paris, serves as the sole court for reviewing appeals from decisions of the OFPRA regarding refugee status and subsidiary protection. In an effort to reduce postponed hearings, the government aims to establish regional chambers for the CNDA. The bill proposes that "working can be allowed as soon as the application for asylum is sent by an asylum seeker from a country on a list decided upon yearly," with a particular focus on Afghans, who are frequently granted asylum. At present, asylum seekers are required to wait for six months before they are permitted to work. The surge in undocumented workers, with a notable increase of +45% in 2022, has prompted the government to simplify the legalization process. For immigrants employed without proper documents, eligibility for a residence permit entails a minimum of three years' presence in France, a minimum of 24 pay slips, and a job offer from their employer. This development is particularly significant for thousands of immigrants in Paris who meet these criteria, offering them a positive outlook. The bill aims to raise fines for institutions employing workers illegally, with the maximum fine set at 4,000 Euros, which can be multiplied based on the number of workers involved in such situations. Laws have changed for multi-year residentship permits. Applicants are now required to have a minimal level of proficiency in French in order to qualify. This adds complexity to the process, especially considering the difficulty of the French language. Additionally, the bill seeks to prevent the administrative detention of minors under the age of 16. It raises concerns as France, among other European countries, hosts a significant number of unaccompanied minors. The bill focuses extensively on expelling immigrants who do not align with the values of the republic. The proposed laws aim to simplify the deportation process, making it more efficient and, according to the government, more effective in upholding national values. The government is seeking compliance from irregular foreigners discovered at the border to undergo fingerprinting and photography. This action might be seen as a significant infringement on human rights and privacy. Supporters of human rights could contend that these measures invade privacy rights, while proponents of border control and security might deem them essential. The interpretation largely depends upon one's position on the political spectrum, but there is no denying that entering the border of France by illegal means will become much more difficult in light of the new bill. It's important to highlight that the current immigrant workforce is essential to maintaining the economy of France and other European countries. Europeans, in general, are not inclined to undertake strenuous labor, often preferring stable 9-to-5 jobs with fixed salaries and comprehensive benefits such as medical insurance. The absence of these immigrant workers would have a severe impact on various sectors, particularly the restaurant and food industry, where immigrant labor plays a vital role in sustaining these businesses. The hospitality sector also heavily relies on immigrant workers for its functioning. Immigration, essentially, is a double edged sword for Europe. While crucial for inexpensive labor and economic expansion, it also poses challenges. Despite concerted efforts by European countries to address the downsides of immigration, the reality remains that it is a fundamental aspect of their prosperity.

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