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In France, a “fear” of immigration, a symptom of multiple anxieties

Photo: Julien de Rosa AFP The president of the RN, Jordan Bardella, regularly criticizes “massive uncontrolled immigration” and particularly wishes to abolish “soil law”.

Published yesterday at 8:46 a.m.

  • Europe

In France, immigration, one of the major concerns of voters, irrigates the legislative campaign where the far right is in the lead: if it is not new, this “fear of 'foreign' is amplified by a global context of political 'anxiety' and 'helplessness', according to researchers.

In an Ipsos survey carried out on 6 and 7 June on the determinants of voting in the European elections, largely won by the far-right National Rally (RN) party, immigration constitutes “the” major subject for 23% of French people planning to vote, ahead of purchasing power (18 %). 43% of them made it one of the three main reasons for their vote.

The RN has historically made it one of its favorite themes. Its president Jordan Bardella, prime minister expected in the event of an absolute majority in the National Assembly, regularly criticizes “massive uncontrolled immigration” and particularly wishes to eliminate the “right of soil”.

France issued a record number of first residence permits last year, at 323,260, up 1.4% compared to 2022, while expulsions increased sharply (+10%, to over of 17,000), according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.

Anti-immigration speeches have all the more resonance, for the anthropologist Michel Agier, as they have been part, for around twenty years, of a general climate of anxiety, fueled by “the feeling that “we live permanently in insecurity”: natural disasters, different forms of terrorism or the perishing of protective states, lists the researcher.

“This fear leads to the production of a scapegoat , but it’s not new,” observes the Director of Studies at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS).

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“Postcolonial Legacy”

What is contemporary, on the other hand, is according to him “the postcolonial heritage which produces a kind of racism which is behind this obsession of the extreme right with questions of immigration”, underlines the anthropologist.< /p>

“When we say that there are too many migrants, we are not talking about Americans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Ukrainians… We are not talking about whites, whereas these “the latter come in very large numbers […] but are not welcomed in the same way”, notes the specialist in the relations between human globalization and exile.

According to the national statistics institute (INSEE), in 2022, seven million immigrants lived in France, or 10.3% of the total population, and 35% of them acquired French nationality (2.5 million ).

Less than half, 48.2% of immigrants were born in Africa and 32.3% were born in Europe. The most common countries of birth of immigrants are Algeria (12.5%), Morocco (11.9%), Portugal (8.2%), Tunisia (4.7%), Italy (4.0%), notes INSEE.

Moreover, according to Mr. Agier, the loss of community benchmarks with the breakdown of families and the development of individualism leads to the withdrawal of a population into itself. “Since the 1990s, almost everywhere in the world, states have become very disengaged and have given citizens the impression of being less protected by them,” he observes.

“Weak adversaries”

An observation shared by Swanie Potot, researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) , which highlights a feeling of socio-economic fragility: “The foreigner embodies globalization associated with relocations, lower wages and competition between workers on an international scale”.

“Powerless in the face of this globalization, the political sphere, well beyond the far right, is taking up immigration issues because it shows that it can act with concrete measures, thus reassuring its ability to decide,” she believes.

“Migrants are weak adversaries, politically voiceless […] unlike finance,” explains the sociologist specializing in questions of migration.

Since 1980, 29 laws on immigration have been recorded in France, or one every 17 months, recalls the Museum of the History of immigration.

But stigmatizing a population and devoting them to clandestinity by tightening the measures for their settlement in France, in the hope of dissuading them from coming, produces the opposite effect and slows down their integration, migrant aid associations regularly point out.< /p>

“These people will not have the right to work legally, to find housing, to take care of themselves and this develops an informal economy which encourages delinquency”, observes Swanie Potot.

“It would be enough to stop fueling these fears and transfer politics to other subjects for it to disappear by itself. There is nothing immutable in the rejection of the foreigner,” she believes.

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