The percentage of the immigrant population in French society is not as high as in most of the neighbouring countries. Although the topic of immigration isn’t always at the forefront of the discussion, the French seem to have relatively stable views.
According to the French asylum office, 121 554 persons have been registered as asylum seekers in 2021. The first five countries of origin were: Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, Guinea, and Turkey. However, just over 25% of first-time applications and 22% of appeals receive a favouable decision. Looking at the migration data in general, the largest populations of immigrants in France as of 2020 have been those of Algerians, Moroccans, and Portuguese. In 2022, over 50 000 Ukrainians arrived in France after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The legalisation of stay for asylum seekers consists of two steps: the first is presenting accurate documents for the examination of the officers, and the second is a personal interview. Such a process can take up to 18 months. After completing the first step, one is given an asylum application certificate, which theoretically allows refugees to access housing, healthcare, and education. However, this certificate needs to be renewed every month.
Regardless of changing governments, French immigration policy is mainly based on the assimilationist approach. The public discourse is dominated by the “us vs them” narrative. It’s all related to the French colonialist past and prevalent racist stereotypes. Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, France has shortened the time of residence obligatory to apply for citizenship to the refugees who were considered essential workers. Also, for a long time, French leaders have been introducing laws that discriminate against immigrant groups, especially Muslim women, by banning hijabs at school, face-covering in public places, and, most recently, burkinis.
Despite the polls showing that since 2018 the positive attitudes towards refugees overtook the negative ones in France, over half of the French believe that the country should completely close its borders to migrants.