The French presidential race is just around the corner (April 23rd, to be exact) and the strongest performers couldn’t be more divided on the topic of immigration. Here’s our sum up of where the top five stand on migration and asylum.
To read about how the French election works, read our handy election explainer!
Marine Le Pen – Front National
I want to put an end to immigration, that’s clear.
Since the start of her campaign, far-right Front National candidate and current forerunner Marine Le Pen has argued for “one culture and one language.” Thus, simplifying her immigration policy. Le Pen calls for France to leave the Schengen zone and increasing the requirements to become a French national- eradicating so-called jus soli citizenship, and dual citizenship for non-Europeans. Additionally, Le Pen says that her immigration policy will reduce annual legal immigration into France by 80% , to about 10,000 individuals per year. Le Pen’s advocates the continuing of asylum applications overseas in French embassies and countries of origin, but states that many of the current migrants in France requesting asylum are illegal (undocumented) immigrants. She thus advocates a swift deportation policy and makes it impossible to legalize their situation. For immigrants who commit crimes, she suggests establishing bilateral treaties that allow people convicted in France to serve out their sentences in their countries of origin.
Emmanuel Macron – En Marche!
The European Union cannot accept on its soil all those who are in search of a better life.
Former banker and finance minister Emmanuel Macron is the great question mark in the campaign- the leader of a brand new political party, he’s never held an elected post but is nevertheless steadily polling among the top two along with Le Pen and is likely (at this point) to make it to the runoff. His political stance generally rejects simple categorizations of left and right, but his immigration policy takes a relatively standard center-right line. He says the EU must continue to accept its “fair share” of refugees, while ensuring anyone not entitled to asylum is promptly deported, with decisions being handed down within 8 weeks of arrival. He also expects immigrants to integrate into local communities and introduces policies aimed at increasing integration, such as mandatory (funded) language courses. Finally, he wishes to make France more attractive for desirable types of migrants (desirable to Macron at least) such as researchers, students, investors, and artists.
François Fillon- Les Republicains
Our demography is one of the most dynamic in Europe so that, in contrast to most of our European neighbors, we do not need immigration to support our growth.
François Fillon is the candidate of the center-right Republicans, once thought to be a strong contender but now under fire constantly following a scandal involving alleged payments made to his wife (“Penelopegate”). Facing calls to step down, he defiantly remains in the race and can’t be counted out. Regarding his immigration policy, he is barely to the left of the Front National, calling for legal immigration to France to be reduced “to the bare minimum.” To this end, he proposes strict limits on family reunification and even ethnic quotas for various regions to avoid concentration of communities in the same municipalities. To the extent that EU standards conflict with his proposals, he wants to renegotiate. He would also significantly reduce benefits for migrants, including healthcare, limiting it to minors and emergency treatment. He also calls for restoring detention for asylum seekers, and would have decisions handed down within four months. Finally, he wants to restrict citizenship to those immigrants who have shown themselves to be “clearly assimilated”, and allow for citizenship applications to be opposed by the state in cases of doubt, especially, he says, in the case of children of undocumented immigrants.
Benoit Hamon- Parti Socialiste
The bulk of international migration is not on a South North Axis but a South-South axis. I will be working on both.
Benoit Hamon represents the French Socialist party (parti socialiste), whose currently reigning president Hollande declined to run for re-election. Hamon is the minister of education, and its fair to say that migration comprises a relatively minor part of a wide-ranging program, focused on reforming labor, the economy, and the justice system. His migration proposals focus mainly on the European level. He calls for a reform of the Dublin regulation based on “welcome and solidarity” and proposes the creation of a humanitarian visa for refugee reception. Further, he endorses “fluidification” of labor migration (presumably making it easier for travel in and out of France for labor purposes.)
Jean Luc Melenchon- La France Insoumise
Turn off the causes of their departure one after the other.
Jean-Luc Melenchon’s has argued that the immigrants that are currently here are not going anywhere, “Once people are there, what do you want to do? Reject them to the sea? No, it’s absolutely impossible.” As a result, his party presents a radical departure for the immigration system: decriminalizing undocumented migration, allowing more flexible work migration and easier acquisition of both residence rights and citizenship. The party also advocates standardizing asylum procedures across France and distributing asylum seekers equally across the country, and giving people who seek asylum the right to work while they await a decision.
In terms of restriction, Melenchon advocates a policy targeting the reasons that people leave in the first place. In a sense, Melenchon’s immigration policies are much more a preventative immigration type of foreign policy, suggestive of increasing foreign development aid. In his 2016 book “Le Choix de l’insoumission” outlines his position, “If we do not want people to come, it is better that they do not leave… We must stop believing that people leave for pleasure. So turn off the causes of their departure one after the other.”