The immigration situation in France has been strongly influenced to the present day by the legacy of colonialism of earlier centuries as well as the long tradition of recruiting foreign workers. Overall, there has been a steady increase in immigration over the last century, and this has had a strong impact on the nature of French society. Although immigration has been regarded as a success story in economic terms, in the past three decades it has increasingly been perceived as the root of social problems. The success of extreme right-wing parties in elections – especially of the Front National (FN) - makes this as readily apparent as the unrest that flares up time and again in the suburbs. As a result, integration policy in recent years has moved towards the centre of public attention.
Background Information France
Official language: French
Area: 543,965 km2, with overseas territories 672,352 km2 (for comparison, Germany: 357,027 km2)
Population (January 1, 2012): 63.46 million (65.35 million including overseas territories)
Population density: 115 inhabitants per km2
Population growth (1996-2011): +0.55% per year
Labor force participation rate (2010): 70.1%
Foreign population as a percentage of total (2008): 5.8%
Immigrant population as a percentage of total (2008): 8.4%
Percentage of foreign employees amongst gainfully employed (2010): 6.2%
Unemployment rate: 9.4% (2010), 8.9% (2005); 8.5% (2000)
Religions (2011): Catholics (64%), Muslims (4.3%), Protestants (1.8%)
Against this background, immigration policy has, in the last years, taken an increasingly restrictive course in France. As in other European countries, there is an effort to manage immigration with a view to maximizing benefits to the economy. Consequently, increased control of admissions and the integration of second- and third-generation descendants of immigrants represent the most important challenges for immigration policy-making in France in the near future. There is currently a strong focus on the integration of Muslims in French society and the relationship of the French state to Islam.