It seems that migration policies of a leading country in Europe, France, are seriously changing. The country is no longer able to hold back the crowd of migrants, many of whom do not want to integrate into the social and economic life of their new home country. The upcoming radical changes for migrants were announced by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
After a meeting on the National Immigration and Integration, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced significant changes in the country’s migration policy. The government will reduce financial assistance to immigrants, and this reduction will be substantial. Starting March 1 of next year, French immigrant benefits will be reduced by 83 percent. The amount of compensation to immigrants who voluntarily want to return home will be also reduced. If earlier the government paid 300 euros for every adult and 100 euros for every minor, in March of 2013 these amounts will be reduced to 50 and 30 euros, respectively.
One of the main provisions of the new immigration rules in France is the reduction of unemployment benefits. New rules will directly affect many of the immigrants who do not want to be of real assistance to the country and whose main goal is the existence at the expense of French taxpayers. Now immigrants who are EU citizens receive an allowance of 2,000 euros per adult and 1,000 euros per child.
Under the new policy, according to Valls, the payments will be reduced to 500 and 200 euros, respectively. Manuel Valls said that the previous immigration policy did not lead to the desired effect, and the existing outreach programs for immigrants do not work as they were expected to, therefore, the rules must be changed. If this is not done, the costs for the maintenance of migrants now paid by the French Treasury will continue to devastate the economy of France that is already suffering from the crisis caused by international factors.
Earlier this year, during the election campaign in France, Nicolas Sarkozy, the then President, strongly advocated for the changes in migration policies in France. He stated that the delays could adversely affect the entire domestic policy of France. Francois Hollande, the current President of France and at that time the main opponent of Sarkozy, spoke on the subject more softly, avoiding naming any specific measures. Does this mean that life itself supports the statements of the eccentric ex-president of France?
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, in the second half of 2010, France was home to over five million migrant workers, or about 8 percent of the total population. The largest number of migrants arriving in France, according to the data for 2007, was from Algeria, Morocco and Portugal. In 2011, French citizenship was granted to 66,000 people. It is getting increasingly more difficult for the government to provide financial assistance to migrants, given that many of them do not work or study. In fact, this is not surprising given the amount of aid that the government was ready to provide to its new citizens.
With a growing number of migrants, mainly from Muslim countries, France is experiencing many internal problems. They include rising unemployment and crime, and increasingly greater sums of money from the state treasury spent on support of migrants and their families, which has a detrimental effect on the economy. Finally, France is simply awash with the migrant population with an alien ideology, reluctant to accept European values and often hostile.
Sooner or later, the government had to take measures. It seems that the time has come. On the wave of changes in French policy towards migrants, in 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy won presidential elections. Since his arrival to power, the government began to pursue a policy of the so-called selective migration, whose aim was to attract to France mainly skilled personnel. Under Sarkozy a quota system was introduced in the country that determined the number of required workers. In March of 2012, during the presidential campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated the importance of addressing domestic problems of migrants. Sarkozy, a son of an immigrant from Hungary, suggested cutting the amount of social assistance provided to migrants and reducing the number of issued residence permits by 50%. In addition, he threatened that France would leave the Schengen Treaty in order to prevent infiltration of unwanted migrants into the country.
Francois Hollande, the current president of France, was not that radical in his vision of the issues associated with migrants. He was not ready to control all categories of migrants, but in March of 2012 called for limiting migration for economic reasons. It looks like it is the economic conditions that are forcing the French authorities to toughen the policy towards migrants. This is indicated, in particular, by the disappointing data in the Global Competitiveness Report on the state of competitiveness of France, which the government discussed in November. According to the report, the competitiveness of the French industry is falling. In 2000, the share of industry in the economy of the country accounted for 18 percent, and now – 12.5 percent as companies are going bankrupt. In part, it is due to the heavy burden of social security contributions that businesses are required to make. French business payroll taxes are among the highest in the world at approximately 50 percent. It could not have been different because the country had to feed a large number of migrants.
In March of 2012 Sarkozy suggested reducing the number of migrants from 180 thousand to 100 thousand. A significant decrease in the number of migrants could be expected in five years. It seems that the government of Hollande has adopted such measures and is moving towards action.
A significant decrease in the amounts allocated for subsidies for migrants might be somewhat effective. The treasury will have more resources that can be allocated to job creation and overall economic recovery. There is a likelihood that the reduction in benefits will be an incentive for some workers to step up their job search.
There is another side to the coin. Many migrants, especially those from Arab countries-former colonies of France, are used to living on government subsidies. They have been doing it for years, and have been teaching their children this model of social behavior. According to the National Institute of Statistical Studies, children from immigrant families tend to be weaker students than their peers who are not immigrants. This is especially true for migrants from Turkey. In the labor market, only 14 percent of children of immigrants attain high social positions.
Reduction of benefits would hurt many migrant families. Will this provoke antisocial behavior where migrants would outpour their anger in the streets of French cities, destroying everything around them? Will the migrant riots of 2007 be repeated? There is an obvious need in new approaches towards migration policy. However, in their implementation the government should take into account various possible consequences. Only a balanced approach will lead to positive results.
– By Sergei Vasilenkov