Immigration in France (Part 1)

December 1, 2007

Yay for game research.

This stuff comes from James F. Hollifield’s “France: Republicanism and the Limits of Immigration Control” in Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective, Second Edition (Stanford, 2004). I’m going to cover the background here in multiple parts, taking notes and extracting quotes for use in the game I’m eventually going to write about “artful resistance in Fortress Europe.” I may try to cover Britain (boo, Thatcher!) after I finish with France. Comments and additional thoughts, especially from European residents who know more about the situation on the ground, would be great.

Immigration Before 1974

Immigration control began in France with the establishment of a national identity card (like the ones they keep talk about instituting in the US) during WWI. However, it didn’t really become a big issue until the 1960s, when the dismantling of the French empire and the Algerian War led to a large influx of immigrants from North and West Africa. “Postwar policies were designed to discourage settler immigration and encourage some nationalities, particularly North Africans, to return to their countries of origin” (186). Instead, France focused on implementing guestworker policies and trying to ensure there was a rotation of temporary labor. This is what allowed the French government to pursue the possibility of halting all immigration in 1974 and 1993.

A major problem, from the government’s perspective were quazi-citizens from North and West Africa, who could generally move freely between former French colonies and France itself. These groups began to come under closer scrutiny in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “The ambiguous status of North and West Africans has continued to play havoc with French government attempts to control immigration given that individuals in former African colonies who were born during French rule have the legal right to request ‘reintegration’ into French nationality” (190).

First Suspension of Immigration: 1974

In 1974, “the justification for stopping worker immigration was clear: with the decline in economic growth and the rise in unemployment, employers should no longer be allowed to recruit foreign labor, and the denial of visas (external control) and work permits (internal control) was seen as a necessary policy response to worsening economic conditions. The new control policies were also viewed as a way to head off a rising tide of xenophobia… This policy shift reflected the following logic: if the receiving states could stop immigration, they could solve the unemployment problem; stopping immigration creates jobs and weakens xenophobic political movements” (191). However, even with worker immigration slowed to a trickle, family immigration to France, reuniting those already there with their kin, continued unabated, despite government attempts to construct disincentives.

“Even as the issue of control (immigration policy) continued to be debated, the issue of integration (immigrant policy) surged into the national agenda. The realization that millions of Muslims were settling permanently in France led to a reconsideration of existing approaches to immigration and integration” (192). Political parties were increasingly polarized over these issues. The left-wing socialists soon took charge of the government and began to implement more liberal immigrant policies concerning residency and “relaxed prohibitions against foreigners’ associational and political activities, making foreigners residing in France feel more secure” (192). However, the backlash against these more amiable policies, backed by growing resentment, was not long in coming.

Rise of the National Front

“…the issue exploded in 1984 when the extreme-right [Front National] won municipal elections in Dreux, an industrial town just west of Paris, on a platform calling for a complete halt to immigration and for the deportation of African immigrants. The electoral breakthrough of this neo-fascist, xenophobic, racist movement profoundly changed the politics of immigration in France and throughout Western Europe. For the first time since the end of World War II, an extremist party on the right was making itself heard and finding a new legitimacy, garnering support from large segments of the French electorate. Within a matter of years it would become ‘the largest working-class party in France’… From the beginning, the National Front was a single-issue party; its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, called for a physical separation of the races” (193).

“The rise of the National Front contributed heavily to a sense of crisis in French politics and public policy, with immigrants at the center of the maelstrom. Suddenly, immigrants were seen as the cause of the French nation’s economic and cultural decline, provoking a loss of confidence in the republican model, especially on the right. Immigrants were accused of taking jobs from French citizens, and Muslims were deemed to be inassimilable and hostile to republican values” (193).

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