France: Expert discusses fears over immigration issues
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, James Shields, Professor of French politics at Warwick University explained how France’s long-running issue of tackling both legal and illegal immigration has been a virtually impossible battle for President Macron to win as he has struggled to win support for the actions he has implemented to tackle immigration from either the left or the right in France.
Professor Shields explained: “The Calais migrant crisis itself is not a high profile issue in France, accept for those who live in Calais.”
He explained how this is because migrants are trying to “get out across the Channel to Britain”, but not stay in France.
Professor Shields elaborated, noting how the French at large are instead “much more concerned” about migrants trying to get in to France and stay in France.
He stressed how this issue sees much larger numbers of immigrants than those at Calais and is thus at the front of the mind for many French citizens.
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The French political professor explained how on the issue of migration President Macron “has undergone a bit of a conversion” as he explained the question is a challenging one to address in France.
He highlighted how as a candidate back in 2017, President Macron took a “liberal open stance on the benefits of immigration” but since then has changed tack and instead begun to crack down on immigration as the years have gone by.
Professor Shields said this has been evident through the series of measures which have included anything from tightening access to health care for immigrants to breaking up migrant camps.
He said how stepping up the expulsion of illegal immigrants has also shown a change of heart Mr Macron has had toward the issue.
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But despite such measures, Professor Shields stressed immigration “remains an area where Macron has managed to please no one”.
He explained how the left “accuse him of harsh discriminatory policies” while the right accuse him of “being too soft” on the issue.
Professor Shields stressed how this leaves President Macron in a sticky situation, unable to curry favour with either side, while vying to prove he can handle the issue of immigration in France.
He highlighted how public opinion also shows “consistently low levels of satisfaction” with Macron’s handling of immigration where he compares poorly to his main presidential opponent Marine Le Pen who takes a hardline, zero-tolerance approach to the issue.
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According to French demographic studies group the Institut National D’etudes Demographiques, in 2018, there were 6.5 million immigrants living in France—9.7 percent of the total population (of 67 million).
4.1 million were foreign nationals and 2.4 million, or 37 percent, had acquired French citizenship.
It comes as the composition of the immigrant population in France is changing: The proportion of immigrants born in Spain or Italy who came to France long ago and are now in old age is continuously falling, while immigrants born in North Africa, who are younger and came more recently, now make up a considerable share of the immigrant population.
In 2018, 13 percent of immigrants in France were born in Algeria; 11.9 percent in Morocco; 9.2 percent in Portugal and 4.4 percent in Tunisia; 4.3 percent in Italy; 3.8 percent in Turkey; and 3.7 percent in Spain.
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