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Future Challenges | France |

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Future Challenges

Marcus Engler

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The presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, who was voted to become the Head of State in 2007, clearly led to more restrictive French migration policy.

The closing of camps of mainly Afghan irregular migrants in Calais in September 2009, the eviction and destruction of several hundred Roma settlements and the deportation of their residents in 2010, the “Burka Ban” in 2011, as well as the discussion on French national culture and Halal-butchered meat – these are just a few key moments in a development in the last years which has led to a stigmatization of the immigrant population. These are also an expression of the widely held fear of immigration, this fear being fueled by right-populist voices in politics (especially Front National) and in the French population.

It is foreseeable that the course of restrictive migration policy will continue if Sarkozy wins the presidential elections in the spring of 2012. As in 2007, immigration is one of the central issues in the election campaign. The present governing party is pursuing the goal of reducing the current immigration of around 200,000 people per year by 10%. The leading candidate of the right-wing extremist party Front National, Marine Le Pen, declared that she will limit the number of immigrants to 10,000 per year. A more moderate position is taken by the Socialist Party, which would want to implement voting rights at the local level for third country nationals.

Overcoming the social and economic marginalization of migrants in the suburbs poses the central challenge for French politics and society. The disturbances in these residential areas in autumn 2005, which have since flared up repeatedly, albeit with less intensity, are only the most visible manifestation of this challenge. This marginalization is a result of extremely high youth unemployment and a poorly functioning education system that is not suited to the special needs of these young people. Political responses, which have scarcely gone beyond symbolic politics, need to focus on the root causes of marginalization in the future. Measures such as the Action Plan “Hope for Disadvantaged Suburbs” (Espoir Banlieue), which was passed in 2008 to help equalize the chances for the population in so-called “sensitive urban zones” (ZUS – Zone urbaine sensible), have not been very successful.

Compared with the European average, demographic ageing in France is less pronounced due to the relatively high birth rate and the influx of immigrants. Nonetheless, long-term immigration will be necessary in order to guarantee the continued existence of the social system. The topic of immigration will therefore gain further importance in coming years.



  1. For more information see newsletter ‘Migration und Bevölkerung’ 09/09.

  2. See newsletter ‘Migration und Bevölkerung’ 10/11.

  3. Hillebrand/Kreuder-Sonnen (2009).

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