French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that a new asylum and immigration bill will be tabled from the beginning of 2023, with the French leader highlighting the need to send more migrants into the French countryside during France’s “demographic transition.”
At a meeting with prefects on Sept. 15, Macron said the bill will be tabled “from the beginning of 2023,” with the aim of putting an end to an “absurd policy” that he considered to be “inefficient and inhumane.”
Macron is pushing for “better distribution” of foreign nationals across France, particularly in “rural areas, which are themselves losing population,” and where “we will have to close classes, probably schools and colleges.” The French leader then claims that these migrants will be better received in these more rural areas.
“The conditions for their reception will be much better (in rural regions) than if we put them in areas that are already densely populated, with a concentration of massive economic and social problems,” he said. Macron said he wanted to relocate migrants in particular to “rural areas that are losing population” and described it as “a tremendous opportunity” within the framework of a “demographic transition.”
Opposition to migrants in rural France is already strong
However, attempts to move migrants to rural regions has already been met with fierce opposition across France. As Remix News reported earlier this year, a plan financed with millions of euros from the wealthy Cohen family is designed to place 70 refugees into the quaint French town of Callac. The family has described their desire to create what they describe as a multicultural “Noah’s Ark of modern times.” However, the decision has been met with fierce opposition from the town’s locals with protests and calls to hold a referendum on migrant relocation plans. The Cohen family, undeterred by such opposition, has since expanded their project to a wide variety of French countryside towns, with the French government’s financial support.
Wealthy Cohen family attempts to create multicultural ‘Noah’s Ark’ by settling 70 refugee families in small French town, but residents are fighting back
“The arrival of 70 non-European families would totally disrupt the life of the municipality and the canton,” warns a group of citizens opposed to the refugee resettlement scheme
A citizen’s initiative looking to block the proposal wrote a letter to the town’s mayor describing why they stood in opposition:
“The objective would be to repopulate a small ‘aging’ town with migrants, to revitalize the town center and to develop economic activities. Migrants would therefore be supervised, housed, and trained, and 70 jobs would be found for them.
The arrival of 70 non-European families would totally upset the life of the municipality and the canton. Thirty-eight non-French-speaking children would be educated at the Callac school and divided into classes. This would further complicate the task of teachers.
How can you impose on the people of Callac such a project that calls into question the identity of our population and before the real cost of the project is determined?”
The citizens opposed to the plan also pointed to already high unemployment rates in their own town, and asked why jobs would be found for migrants when there are not enough jobs currently for those already living there.
How Macron could benefit from a migrant relocation scheme
Macron may have a strong political objective for transferring more migrants to rural France. His base of support, along with other left-wing politicians, is substantially higher in urban areas, with the left lacking support in less densely populated regions. Importing a mass amount of non-European peoples into what were traditionally towns and rural areas — many of which have featured homogenous European populations for thousands of years — may also boost Macron and the left’s electoral prospects in the future. In the last election, for instance, a staggering 85 percent of Muslims voted for Macron in his race against National Rally’s Marine Le Pen. If more Muslims can be brought into France and absorbed into rural areas, the calculus is clear: a secure and perhaps permanent majority for the French left.
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Most older immigrants are the children or grandchildren of Europeans, while the younger immigrant population typically originated from Africa
Data also shows that protests against mass migration from rural areas are not an isolated sentiment relegated to a minority. Instead, rural areas are usually adamantly opposed to mass migration. Overall, a majority of French have stated in a variety of polls they want to reduce migration and that immigration has harmed internal security in France, which aligns with statistics showing murders and terrorist attacks have risen in tandem with increasing migration. Even more alarming for France’s political left and pro-migration interests, 60 percent of the country believes in the Great Replacement theory, and 67 percent are worried that it is already happening in their country. Anti-immigration sentiment remains far higher in rural areas than urban areas, which continues to pose an undeniable electoral challenge for Macron and his party.
Macron’s decision to point out the “demographic transition” may also bolster the arguments of those pointing to the Great Replacement, which describes the displacement of Europeans by non-Europeans throughout the West, with French intellectuals, politicians, and academics increasingly discussing and debating the phenomenon on French political debate shows and in the nation’s top newspapers, including with data and statistics to back their assertions. In other words, the Great Replacement has reached the mainstream of French political thought and may underpin the French public’s increasing rejection of mass migration.
Macron tries to sell his immigration plan to a wary French public
Macron, however, is selling his migration reallocation idea through other means, calling the current policy of migrants living mostly in cities “inefficient and inhumane.”
“We have a policy that is both inefficient and inhumane,” Macron said. “Inefficient because we find ourselves with more foreigners in an irregular situation than many of our neighbors, and inhumane because this pressure means that they are too often badly received.”
Macron pointed to the system of benefits that draw migrants to France, saying, “We have a system of monetary, social, medical aid, much more generous than all our neighbors.” On the reception side, Macron deemed it necessary to “integrate (migrants) much faster,” adding that “our policy today is absurd” because it “consists of putting women and men who arrive, who are in the greatest misery” in the poorest neighborhoods.
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The French prime minister has long paid lip service to the topic of illegal immigration, but has shown few results. For example, despite setting the goal of a 100 percent deportation rate for rejected asylum seekers and convicted migrants, the government has only managed to achieve a 15 percent deportation rate — another factor that may be driving more migration to France. However, Macron is again making promises on the subject, saying his government will work to “improve the effectiveness of deportation policies” at the border with regard to foreign nationals in an illegal situation. In particular, he mentioned the need to make the granting of visas more conditional on “the spirit of cooperation [with the origin countries] to take back foreigners in an irregular situation, starting with those who disturb public order.”
During his recent trip to Algeria, Macron, alongside his counterpart Abdelmajid Tebboune, promoted a relaxation of the visa regime granted to the country in exchange for increased cooperation from Algiers in the fight against illegal immigration. However, such agreements have been tenuous in the past, with Algeria threatening Spain with a migration wave over a political dispute just this year. In addition, France may end potentially receiving more legal migrants from Algeria in exchange for Algeria taking action against illegal immigration, but in the end, the integration track record of Algerian migrants in France has also been poor.