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Immigrants between bitterness and fear following the surge of the far right in France

Photo: Gaizka Iroz Agence France-Presse Protesters gather in the streets during a demonstration against the French far-right party “Rassemblement National”, a day after the party won the European elections in France.

Estelle Emonet – Agence France-Presse

Published at 14:41

  • Europe

“I don’t understand, France has always needed immigrants to develop,” confides Abdoulaye Bathily, a Malian cleaning worker based in Paris. In the aftermath of the surge of the far right in the European elections, foreigners confide their bitterness and their fears.

“The new immigration law is already very hard for us, and it's very complicated to renew your residence permit, but it will be even more complicated with the “extreme right” in power, comments Mr. Bathily, 59, including 35 years in France.

France's main far-right party won 32% of the vote in Sunday's European elections, nearly twice the presidential party's score, leading President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the National Assembly and announce legislative elections, risking to bring the extreme right to power in France for the first time.

Abdoulaye Bathily is “worried” about the historic victory of the extreme right, whose immigration is one of the favorite themes. “It’s absurd to say that there are too many immigrants in France”, “we have jobs in hotels, restaurants, construction [building and public works]: hard jobs, which the French do not don't want to do”, underlines the one who gets up at dawn to clean up companies.

In the Paris region, immigrants represent 40 to 62% of sector workers. home help, construction, hotels and restaurants, cleaning, security and the agri-food industry, according to official statistics for 2022.

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The fifty-year-old, whose application for naturalization was refused, says he feels like a “third-class” citizen and refutes the idea that immigrants benefit from aid. “Certainly, there are bastards, but like among the French, many of whom behave badly.”

Mass immigration

Sunday evening, after the announcement of early legislative elections, the leader of the French far right Marine Le Pen assured that her party was “ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to this mass immigration”.

Sonia, an Algerian who obtained a one-year residence permit a month ago, says she is also anxious: “I'm afraid that I will be sent back to my country”, says this 38-year-old woman, now in good standing after nine years of irregular presence in France.

Housekeeper, but also home help for elderly people or a babysitter, she explains that she works “a lot”: late evenings, weekends. “I never take a vacation, even during Covid people called on me,” emphasizes this harki granddaughter living in Marseille, in the south of France.

“We are told that we are not wanted, yet I have to refuse work for lack of time,” insists this resident of the poor neighborhoods in the north of Marseille who “doesn’t really understand” what immigrants are accused of .

Mixed country

At the head of Singa, an international organization promoting inclusion of new arrivals in employment, Benoît Hamon denounces a vision of immigration based on “beliefs”, according to which foreigners live “on the backs of the French”, and “politicians who know nothing about reality of migrations.”

“How are we going to do without foreign workers' retirement contributions ?”, underlines the former socialist candidate for the presidential.

A luxury clothing salesman at Le Bon Marché in Paris, Daniel Lago, an Ivorian, assures us that he “doesn’t want to take anyone’s place.”

Regularized after six years of wandering and odd jobs, the former delivery man says he is “worried about [his] brothers who don’t have papers” in the event that the extreme right comes to power.

“You don’t leave your native land for fun, it’s because you have no choice,” insists the thirty-year-old, confident in the fact that France is “a mixed-race country” and that those who didn’t vote in the European elections will turn out for the legislative elections, given the stakes.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116