The General Immigration Policy In France History Essay

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The issues of immigrant in France have been a thorny issue over the past few decades given its republican ideology. At first, France accepted immigrants as workers because of labor scarcity. Following the oil crisis in 1974, France stopped taking in new immigrants while those already there begun to settle down, making the need for integration crucial. During the 1980s and 1990s France Immigration policy was restrictive. Its main theme towards immigrants and its own citizen was that of suppressing other people cultural beliefs and this has not changed much in the 21st century. Also the principle of laïcité is central to integration and means that that attributes such as religion and culture remain in the private sphere Hazareesingh (1994,p.75)

The major policy guideline of the early 1980's was insertion which to some extent recognized the fact that immigrants and other minorities needed to be treated differently from other social services recipients. Nevertheless insertion was replaced by integration during the second half of the 1980s, which was a vision with more assimilations tendencies. (p. 76). It left little or no room for the acknowledgment of ethnic diversity. The powers as well as the resources of the Social Action Fund (FAS) created in the 1960s for immigrants and minority groups were expanded; the budget allocation doubling and the number of association funded increasing fourfold.

Integration, which means incorporating people in the French society as individual citizens and not as a group has been in place since the late 1980's. It was essentially aimed at helping immigrants accomplish integration by themselves. With the integration attitude, Mitterrand government from 1981 adopted some integration policies. A good example of such policies was in his expansion of the Social Action fund created for social work, housing, occupational training for immigrants in created in the 1960's.

The origin of the equality before the law notion is found in the "Declaration of human rights and those of all citizens" of 1789 in the statements that states that "all men are born free and equal and remain so under the law". The notion of equality has in a progressive sense become to mean that all citizens faced by similar situations ought to be given identical treatment under the law Hazareesingh (1994, pp. 66-68). This in turn means that Discrimination based on race, national origin or religion is ideally prohibited. In reality though, the impact of the concept of equality helping reduce Social, economic and cultural inequalities has been minimal not only in France but elsewhere. Beauchamp (2003, p.113). For example Public education is said to be based on French republican principles that that includes strict division of religion from the education system. However, public finds go on subsidizing a great number of private schools, over ninety percent are being Catholic.

B. Full veil ban policy.

The France president, Nicolas Sarkozy in April 2010, announced that he intended to put forward a bill that would ban the wearing of burkhas or the full veil Erlanger (2010).Various reasons are given for the banning of the full veil. First on the list is the fact that the full veil is injurious to women's dignity and which is thus unacceptable in French society that prides itself as being a secular state Reichert (1996,p.113).

The president's announcement was done despite warning from various quarters including senior legal authorities, who predicted that the bill could be unconstitutional. The push by Sarkozy for broader limitations was perceived as a challenge to Council of state's earlier proposals. Being France's top administrative Authority, the council had cautioned that a general and absolute proscription of the full veil could have no indisputable judicial basis and risked being outlawed by the courts. It advised that it would have been clearer in legal sense to issue a simple order requiring women to expose their faces for identification purposes and not an absolute ban of the veil. The council argued that protection of public order needed to be the basis of law and not personal dignity. The bill would go farther than the initial proposals which in addition to banning the head scarf would also ban the full veil from being worn in public places including, markets, streets, schools and hospitals.

The forthcoming French elections require Sarkozy to use all the tactics to secure his victory. Therefore the president move is seen as a timely political strategy to capture away the Front National's right wing votes as it is making a strong comeback. Also it is known that majority of the French population favor the ban, given their history.

The controversy over Islamic dressing was ignited in October, 1989 when three female students got suspended from school. They had contravened the demand that required them to remove their veil in class. Conseil d'Etat, in November 1989 ruled in favor of the students by stating that the wearing of scarf was attuned with secularity (laicite) of public schools. Lionel Jospin, the then minister for education issued a statement indicating that schools had the sole mandate to decide whether to accept or refuse the wearing of the hijab based on the case. In 1990, following the filing of a defamation suit against Gabriel Havez's principal by one of the parent of the girls who had been suspended from the school, the government sought to reiterate the need for laicite (secularity) in public schools().

The issues of hijab was not confined to classroom as in 1994, a memorandum referred to as Francois Bayrou memo, which delineated the difference between ostentatious religious symbols, that included the hijab that were to be prohibited in public establishments and discreet religious symbols capable of being brought into classrooms. This sparked organized demonstration from schools that favored the right to wear hijab into classrooms. This demonstration saw the suspension of several veiled students from the participating schools. About a hundred female students were suspended or even expelled from school for wearing the hijab in class. In almost half of these cases, their barring was regarded by the French courts as null and void.

Complex and changing context in which Muslim identity has evolved for and by second and third generation immigrants of Muslim origin from the maghreb(Algeria,Morocco, tunisia) and to a lesser extent from ex-Yugoslavia, Turkey or sub-Saharan Africa. The latest phase is the most confrontational one as the Muslim population regardless of its actual heterogeneity or length of stay in France is affected by the wave of terrorisms and fundamentalism especially from the Algerian civil war. Terrorism issues have become a preoccupation of many governments and Ill informed public opinion in France frequently amalgamates all Machrek or Maghreb individuals as well as communities when faced with terrorism or other forms of violence threat.

Therefore, Security reasons have also been cited as a reason for banning the full veil. Muslims have come to be associated with terrorist acts as most of the times peoples masquerading as Muslims hide explosives in the veils. Towards this end, an earlier proposal from the national assembly suggested a total ban of the full veil in public places and in areas where facial recognition was deemed crucial for security reasons. Wearing of veils is a security risk in that bomb and other weapons are hidden under the clothing in the name of Islam. The Koran dictates that it is the duty of all Muslims to carry out jihad against non-Muslims (infidels) regardless of location. Therefore it is in pursuit of France National interest (security) that banning of the full veil is intended to achieve.

Some leading politicians not only in Mr Sarkozy's camp but also in the opposition are against the move as if passed would stigmatize the six million Muslims which is the current number of French's Muslim. It is also probable that France will cause anger in the Muslim world given a ban that will go past the current prohibition of hijab in public schools.

C. Who is affected by the policy?

The status of Muslim headscarf has provoked heated debate in Europe especially France which has the most Muslim population. This is as a result of the fact that it tends to sum up many of the fears that trouble Europeans when considering Islamic minority among them. It ranges from the status of women to the broader questions of national identity and more importantly religious freedom. The controversy has indeed created odd bedfellows conservatives and feminists amalgamating in an unlikely association, supposedly in order to protect the right pf women to chose.

The previous laws mainly affected school going Muslim women, when the French government passed the legislation outlawing the wearing of hijab in public schools. Feminist supporters of the scarf ban argue that it is demeaning to women ton have to cover up their hair and bodies. The practice equals the repression of women in Islam. They go further to argue that women would not suppress themselves if they had the freedom to choose. At the same time , it would be bizarre for a government to coerce women to be 'free' by barring them from a particular action. Hargreaves, A. and McKinney (1997,pp. 200-212)

The recent ban would affect more women as it covers all public places and not only schools. France is not the only country to have taken legislative actions. Bank, department stores, cleaning companies, food chain hospitals and day care centers refuse to hire females who wear hijab.

I1. Body

Historically, since the immigration issue came to fore, the France government has implemented policies which equals Muslims being incorporated/ assimilated in France. Large of the immigrant profess the Islamic faith, given their North African origin. Given that France is essentially a secular state there has been attempt to stop the public display of Islamic faith. Article I state that France is a secular country: "La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale." Faith being a personal matter is therefore supposed to be discreet. This has resulted in recurring division with non-Christians immigrants particularly with the huge Muslim population.

The emergence of immigrant populations as a problematic policy issue was prompted partly by the process of transformation from a population of temporally workers into a great ethnic minority with all the salient features that accompanies an ethnic minority: a fresh and foreign religion, that is Islam, and waves of racial hatred aimed at minorities among the native populace. The Second-generation immigrant was growing at a very fast rate. In response to the situation a social policy with some attempts towards s multiculturalism was devised Guiraudon(2005, p.81). France never gave complete citizenship to indigenous Muslim population, but construed them as second class French citizens

The deteriorating economic situations triggered xenophobia among the unemployed electorate which arguably made it to increasingly take illiberal measures. There was slowing down of family reunification, encouragement of voluntary return to countries of origin. In 1978, the government with the support of President Giscard d'Estaing organized mass return of established families in France. The plan encountered principled opposition from the Conseil d'Etat and from a particular section of parliamentarians, all acting in the name of republican values that included respect of human rights and tolerance. Eventually negotiation with Algiers made possible voluntary returns, dashing the original plans of repatriation of all foreigners mainly from North Africa.

From 1980 and throughout the two decades that followed, the immigrant population was enormous and a diverse and consisted mainly people of European and African decent. Half of these were of European decent while the other half consisted of immigrants mainly from the North African region. Of the North African immigrants, the composition was such that 22% were Algerian, 11% Moroccans and 5% Tunisians Tamara (1996,p.58). While the Europeans migrants did not attract attention, the North Africans were confronted with racial discrimination and violence issues. The period, between 1978 and 1981 saw an escalation in police brutality and murders directed at second generation North- African Youths. These events prompted the reintroduction of insertion and later integration policies by President Francoise Mitterrand Hargreaves (2004, p.113).

With Francoise Mitterrand victory, one year later in 1981, it was possible for the government to experiment with opposite possibilities in way of embracing liberal policies. He came up with measures aimed at incorporating ethnic minorities within the population. Family unification was authorized, encouragement to return halted and the situation of 130,000 illegal immigrants legalized. However the government discovered the limits of liberal policies especially from the strong resistance towards the establishments of the rights to vote by immigrants in local elections. Consequently, the liberal policies were ended in 1983.

French have for a long time been apprehensive about their culture being submerged or diluted by those belonging to their former colonies. Discrimination in employment and housing served to keep them and as well as their families outside the conventional French society. In a paradoxical twist, the French who had earlier rejected the immigrants later accused them of refusing to integrate into French system and of rejected French cultural values. Ethnic French refuse to accept the fact that they had earlier been intolerant to those who were not ethnically French.

The treatments towards the mainstream immigrants from former colonies could be accredited to the historical disintegration of the great French empire and the degrading end to France's supremacy overseas - an end that claimed many French lives overseas. Thus treatment of this group of immigrants, especially the Algerian who played a central role in the emancipation struggle Algeria from French colonization. The Algerian immigrants in France were blamed for being in support the action of National liberation front (FLN) which fought a lengthy bloody war in Algeria as well as France in quest for independence. Many French still harbor the humiliating defeat as a result of the loss of their empire to the North Africans. Instead of accepting the reality that immigrants pose and their colonial history, the French has centered their energies on building quite a new identity and a special type of empire from within Europe by assuming a leadership role as far as building the European Union is concerned Guiraudon (2005, pp.100-110).

Nevertheless, France cannot run from the painful memories of its past as long as a huge number of immigrants are from its former colonies. As a matter of fact the harder it tries to circumvent dealing with its colonial history by marginalizing immigrant population, the more the immigrant groups become resolute to not only remember but also revive the same past.Many North African immigrants, particularly if they were adult at the time when they arrived in France, have found it very difficult wholy integrate into French mainstream society because of their cultural, religious and linguistic background.

The question of Muslim in France which is a minority group is linked to racism. Immigrants' offspring who are called Beurs in France, often find themselves in a very confusing an a no win circumstances, in that despite of their thoroughly being exposed to French culture, they are rejected by their parent culture(Arab's) as well as France's, the only culture they understand best Hargreaves(2004, P.112)

Majority of ethnic French are said to be against the ban on the full veil. This has been attributed to their racist tendencies. Many of them fail to envision, France as a country whose present history, identity and culture is founded to a large degree on the recruitment as well as absorption of immigrants, from various parts of the world including former colonies in North America. On the contrary they envision France as a country created and conserved by the ethnic French who are the majority and the rest are viewed as intruders. This has the effect of reducing the options available especially for North African immigrants. It also hinders their integration as well as that of their offspring which serve to highlight the failure of fret government to identify immigrant s equals and as contributors of its history and identity Hargreaves (2004,pp 219-225)

. When African immigrants strive to integrate in such conditions, the integration process becomes slower for them as compared to that of immigrants from bordering European countries.

As mentioned previously, the hindrance of family reunification among former colonial immigrants was also extensively detrimental among Maghrebis, and as a result making them remain invisible to mainstream society for a long time

The other equally important factor that has delayed integration Maghrebis into the mainstream French society is their religion background. According to the laws opponents, Presidents Jacque Chirac laws in 2004, that prevented wearing any ostentatious religious symbol, including the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in public School Guiraudon (2005,p 200) and the current proposal by Nicolas Sarkozy, which seeks to outlaw the wearing of Islamic full veil, highlights France's firm position of unwillingness to fully adjust to the needs of its immigrant citizens. The xenophobic attitudes towards Islam could be attributed to two factors including the memory of Algerian civil war and the fight of other Islamic countries, Tunisia and Morocco in particular in their endeavor to gain independence. Islam doctrine was a unifying factor in their spirited struggle and is regarded today in similar context by a lot of young immigrants, who identify themselves not only as French but also as Muslim. Consequently many of the French ethnic majority remains worried about the increase of radical Islam which is also attributed to acts of terrorism. Indeed the unfortunate and tragic September 11, 2001 attack of the twin towers in the United States of America deepened the distrust of the French who feared that might they might have been the next target by Muslim extremist during first Gulf War build up. The first gulf war happened with the support of most Arab states. Nevertheless the North African Immigrants in France, because of their religion became the principal suspects of French Suspicion and distrust. Still they remained law abiding their symbolic exclusion from the mainstream France society not withstanding. This has been strengthened by the colonial legacy which has helped create an image of Muslim as a fundamentally hostile to mainstream French values.

II: Recommendation

A. need for tolerance

To ensure good relations between the French government and the Muslims as well as other immigrants, there is need of the government to be tolerant to other people's culture and religious views.

B. existing relations with North African Countries

It is publicly known that France claims to have cordial relations with north African countries therefore there is the need to stop politicizing the full veil issue.


A. The need for calm

All affected groups need to calm down in order for the government to be in a position to solve the immigrant problems with ease.

B. Respect for the needs of immigrants.

There is also the need for France government to respect the needs of the immigrants. It is stated in that constitution that all human are born equal and therefore have equal rights. In the era of globalization France need to embrace multiculturalism as a reality which is here to stay.

C. Harmony

Harmony in a country need the recognition of all groups of people be it the majority or the minority. Most of those in opposition of the full veil are France ethnic Majority, living out the views of the minority, majority of who profess the Islamic faith. This is tantamount to intolerance of others cultural and religious beliefs. Being part of the EU, means that things are changing and that France has since ceased to be culturally isolated. In actual fact it is a multi cultural society and therefore its legislation need to reflect the same. Cultural diversity should be embraced and not restricted.


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Steven Erlanger 2010, Sarkozy Wants Ban of Full Veils, Viewed 4 May