Free «Immigration in France» Essay Sample

Immigration in France

Each country can grudgingly admit that the conflicts are omnipresent. They often become the background for cleavages related to religion, economy, ideology, politics, and society. Contemporary France faces social and political division. The first derives from the immigration issue while the second usually emerges due to the oppositional ideological lines of political parties. However, the alarming rate of immigrants increases both social and political conflicts. In this essay, we investigate the main reasons and backgrounds of the conflicts related to immigration in France. The objective of this paper is to describe the aspects of immigration and to identify its impact on new conflicts in French society and politics. The fact that immigration process in France has been present for two centuries but became the center of social conflict only during the last three decades evidences that the main reason for conflicts lies not in the immigrants but in the failed integration policy.

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Since time immemorial, people have been moving at shorter or longer distances in the search for better living conditions. People, who leave a native country in order to settle and gain citizenship, are called immigrants. The vast majority of immigrants do not often have a high income. They come to another country in order to improve their position. Generally, immigrants differ from native citizens in values, culture, religion, and political attitude. France takes the fourth place of the most popular destinations after the USA, Germany, and the UK. Its history of immigration is long. According to Benjamin Sawe (2017), Italy immigrants came to the country at the prehistoric age, but the most recent waves started in the 18th and 19th centuries. The legacy of colonization, organized recruitment during and after the First World War, and spontaneous labor migration were the main foundation for it. The process of industrialization and declining birth rate caused huge labor shortage in France. Consequently, the country welcomed a vast array of immigrants from other European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, when an immigrant flow increased rapidly during 1994-2003, the country signed the first restriction on the immigrants. The main reasons were the difficulties with integration and the rise of social conflicts. The number of French immigrants has changed with time, but it is still large. For example, Alex Dunham states that every year 90,000 immigrants arrive in the country. McPartland (2015) indicates that in 2014 there was 8,9% of immigrants in the French population, while Sawe (2017) provides more detailed analysis suggesting that 20% of French population are immigrants, 5,3 million people are foreign-born, and 6,5 million citizens are direct descendants of the immigrants. The present composition of the immigration population is 5,5 million Europeans, four million Asians, a million Africans, and 500,000 Turkish (Sawe). Nowadays, a half of new immigrants are Europeans. Their amount has risen rapidly since 2009. Ben McPartland (2015) provides statistics that 88,820 Europeans came to France in 2009. In 2012, there were 105,830 immigrants of European origin. Such tendency depends on the growing number of people who move between the countries in the search for short-term job.

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The history of colonization has a huge impact on the roots of immigrants during the first waves. According to Sawe (2017), Algerians started immigrating in the early 19th century and represent 16% of general France immigrant population; immigration from Morocco started at the beginning of the 20th century and there is 11% Moroccans; Italians form a big part of immigrants, but the 18th and 19th centuries demonstrate the peak of their movement, currently their amount is 10,4% . 13,2% consists of Russians, Poles, Belgians, and Germans while Southern Asians are equal to 28% of the French immigrants, Sub-Saharan Africans, Portuguese, Spaniards, and Turks represent 10,4% (Sawe). The numbers of the immigrants from the last decades differ from previous statistics. Dunham (2014) asserts that the vast majority of immigrants are Portuguese (8%), Africans (30%), and Europeans (46%). The numbers in various sources also differ as surveys based on race and ethnic origin are banned by France constitution. However, it is obvious that despite the fact that the profiles and geographic origins of immigrants in France have changed much within last decades, the social division became more common and critical.

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Society is the primary division in regard to France’s immigrant population. This division is driven by cultural differences in ideological, political, and religious views and results in the race and ethnic discrimination. The essence of immigration has been exacerbated by a social division that has its colonial and historical roots. The most discriminated group is the immigrant descendants of the 3rd and 4th generations. Their ancestors arrived in 1931 when France had the highest immigrant proportion in Europe. Unfortunately, they experience widespread discrimination by the society today. Politics is the secondary division related to immigrant population in France. This division is driven by a strict separation of political views between right and left wings. Within the last decades, both common people and politicians support the extreme right wing more. Many define themselves as a centre-right group. They manifest xenophobia and open disaffection regarding the immigrants’ issues in contemporary French society. The government cannot prevent the discrimination. Moreover, it is even hard to identify the problem as the surveys based on ethnicity and race are strictly banned because state regards everyone equal. Unfortunately, an intention to maintain social equality does not correspond to reality. In spite of many public and political arguments about race, ethnicity, and religion, government banns the quantitative instrument to measure the sizes of the problem. Consequently, the immigrants remain the center of various social problems. However, the core of immigrants’ issue lies not in them but in the failed government’s policy of integration.

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The majority of immigrants in France experience educational, employment, territorial, and religious infringements which are based primarily on racial diversity. Angelique Chrisafis (2010) indicates that 40% of the urban riots in Paris is about unemployment and appalling living conditions. Nowadays, 15% of immigrant household is below the poverty line comparing to 5,6% of native French. According to Daniel Little (2009), the most critical situation of living conditions is among the immigrants of North African origin where this percentage constitutes 22,6%. “Over a third felt society did not accept them as being French”, writes Chrisafis (2010). The discrimination is vivid at school and work. Children of immigrants give poor performance in school where teachers focus more on the behavior of minority representatives than on their academic abilities. Parents should tackle severe unemployment. Arab or African citizens find their CVs banned, they should often change their names for more French to find a better job (Chrisafis). Lately, Muslims, who have been living in France for generations demonstrating high assimilation, started to feel intense social pressure. Tecular government does not want to consider religious needs of minorities. Moreover, the employers refuse to adjust to the religious obligations, especially when Muslim employees demand breaks for praying, male managers for male employees, and gender divided staff. In response to their request, The French government banned full-face veils in public places for Muslim women making their integration worse and accumulating Islamic issues to the social discussion. Within last three decades, immigration became the root of many social and political problems. Undoubtedly, the first waves of immigration helped to raise the economy of the country much. Unfortunately, it worsens the situation nowadays. The middle class in France rises in response to unemployment. Many native French people go abroad in the search for better jobs. According to McPartland (2015), in 2006 their number counted 59,000; in 2013 it rose to 197,000. The majority are at the age of 18-29. Many right-wing politicians accuse high immigration rate and offer to provide jobs, schools, welfare to the French firstly. This attitude ignites the problem of immigrant discrimination which derives from failed integration policy. In addition to social issues, the severe political division, which started in 1789, adds tension. Uri Friedman asserts that during the last decades the president was either center-left or center-right. Current President Emmanuel Macron won with a slogan “France together” with an aim to unite a country. However, it would not be easy as the voters during the last elections were divided into 20% of politically extreme and 36% of centrist (Friedman). In comparison, the European Union counts only 7% for politically extreme and 62% for centrist (Friedman). The conflicts over immigration are manifested in the rise of voters, who support radical right party the National Front and consider immigrants as dangerous and inferior. The debates on immigration do not focus on the mobilization and integration. On the contrary, they exacerbate the problem and divide society even more. The supporters of right wing affirm that native French population will be replaced by the immigrants, the vast majority of whom are Africans. They demand a massive reduction in legal immigration. However, these statements require concrete proofs. Unsubstantiated statements of radical politics influence social division more than immigrants, who have been living in France for many years but remain deprived of integration perspective in the 21st century.

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The analysis shows that immigration is not the only reason of new cleavage in French society and politics. There are three proofs of this statement. Firstly, the root of immigration process issue in France is not contemporary as last massive immigration flow happened in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past, it did not raise any disputes. Secondly, political division exacerbates the problem, which is discussed more than studied. Thirdly, social division relates directly to the fail of immigrant integration politics. Consequently, the core of the problem lies in the ineffective political strategies than in the society. Thus, the government should eliminate the conflict through the implementation of effective integration policy which would not lead to the negative social perception of immigrants and cause social division.

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