French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (LREM) recently estimated that up to 700,000 illegal migrants are currently residing within French territorial borders.
During an interview with the French daily Le Parisien over the weekend, the interior minister admitted that an estimated 600,000 and 700,000 migrants live in France without valid residency documents. On the bright side, however, Darmanin insisted that the figure is relatively low for a major European country, citing the United Kingdom, BMFTV reports.
“France has far fewer illegal immigrants than most major countries in Europe, starting with Great Britain: between 1 and 1.5 million against 600,000 to 700,000 for us,” said Minister Darmanin.
Although the exact number of illegal migrants currently living in France is unknown, the figures cited by Darmanin were extrapolated from the number of beneficiaries of State Medical Aid (AME) – a system that provides medical care to migrants living illegally within French territory.
Darmanin’s estimate represents an enormous increase from figures put forward in 2017 by then-Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, who claimed at the time that a mere 300,000 migrants were living in France illegally.
The interior minister was also keen to announce that France receives “15,000 fewer asylum requests than Germany” and “expels three times more illegal migrants than the English, twice as many as the Italians, and 50% more than Spaniards.”
Professor Jérôme Wittwer, a co-author of a report on illegal migration carried by researchers at the Institute for Research and Documentation in Health Economics (Irdes) and the University of Bordeaux, said the actual number of illegals living in France could be much higher than official figures suggest. Since only one in two illegal migrants applied for state medical aid through the AME, Wittwer believes that the actual number of immigrants living illegally in France could be double the official estimates.
Several weeks ago, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that €1 billion in medical aid will be allocated from the state’s 2022 budget to cover healthcare costs of illegal immigrants, up from €990 million this year, Remix News reported.
In 2019, figures contained in a report published by the Assembly of French Departments (ADF) showed that the 41,000 underage illegal migrants living in France – 95 percent of whom are male – cost the French state €2 billion each year – roughly €50,000 a year, per underage migrant.
Although the total cost of migration in France is a subject of debate, a 2020 Court of Auditors report noted that the French state had spent €6.57 billion on immigration in 2019, an amount which has increased by 48 percent since 2012.
Others like Marine Le Pen, the leader of the populist National Rally party and one of the top contenders in next year’s presidential elections, have asserted that migration costs the French state as much as €70 billion annually.