Why does Portugal receive so few immigrants?

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Dr. Marcus Engler

Marcus Engler is a social scientist and migration researcher. He has been following developments in French migration and integration policy for a long time. He did a voluntary service in a counseling center for migrants in Marseille. He then studied social and economic sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris. He is currently working as a freelance author, speaker and consultant and is a member of the Refugee Research Network and the Migration in Europe Network.
Email: [email protected]

France has a long and varied history of migration, which is largely shaped by processes of economic modernization and military conflicts. Phases of the open admission of immigrants alternated regularly with phases of restrictive immigration and integration policies.

Mayor Pierre Ruais welcomes children from the Algerian crisis areas at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, July 28, 1956. (& copy picture-alliance / akg)

Immigration intensified from the middle of the 19th century, as the industrialization process and the simultaneous drop in birth rates had led to a shortage of labor. In this phase France was an exception in Western Europe. Most of the other industrialized countries, including Germany, had higher birth rates and were primarily countries of emigration. [1] Due to the population decline as a result of the wars of 1870/71 and 1914-1918, the bottleneck on the French labor market worsened. [2] In order to eliminate this, France concluded recruitment agreements earlier than other European countries with, among others, Italy [3] (1919), Poland (1919), Czechoslovakia (1920) and Spain (1932). At the beginning of the 1930s, France was - measured in absolute terms - the second most important country of immigration in the world after the USA. At that time there were around 2.7 million immigrants in France (6.6 percent of the total population). Immediately after the Second World War and during the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s, France, like other European countries, recruited - predominantly male - workers on the basis of bilateral agreements with Italy (1946), Greece (1960), Spain (1963), Portugal ( 1964), Morocco (1964), Tunisia (1964), Turkey (1965) and Yugoslavia (1965). [4] At the same time, immigration from the former colonies increased as a result of the process of decolonization. Especially in connection with the Algerian War (1954–1962) and the subsequent independence of Algeria in 1962, there was extensive immigration of French settlers and pro-French Algerians to France. [5] In 1964, France signed an agreement to recruit Algerian workers with the now independent country. During the economic crisis of the early 1970s, France followed the example of other European countries and in 1974 ended all recruitment programs for foreign workers. At the time the recruitment stopped, there were 3.5 million migrants in France, which made up seven percent of the total population. Portuguese and Algerians formed the largest groups with around 20 percent each. However, the end of foreign recruitment did not result in the return of immigrants to their home countries or an end to immigration. As in other recruiting countries, many immigrants stayed in France and brought their families to join them. Since then, family reunification has been the most numerically most important form of immigration.

Debates on Immigration and Integration since the 1980s

Since the mid-1980s at the latest, there have been debates about the integration of immigrants - especially from the Maghreb states - and about the limits of the republican integration model. In this model, the integration of immigrants takes place as part of an integration strategy for society as a whole, which is based on universal values. The basis is a political nation concept, which puts all citizens on an equal footing before the law and ignores ethnic or religious identities. [6] Again and again - as in autumn 2005 and 2007 and in summer 2010 - violent conflicts arise, in which young people from immigrant families are often involved. [7] At the same time, there has been an increasing success of right-wing extremist political forces, especially the Front National, since the 1980s. However, these two symptoms are only the most visible manifestations of the crisis of the republican integration model in France.

Since the 1990s, the tension between the republican-faith-neutral values ​​(laïcité) of the republic and the right to exercise one's religion freely, especially the growing Muslim community, has intensified and has become a central issue (see the chapter on dealing with the Islam), which has received a lot of attention since 2012 due to several Islamist-based terrorist attacks.

At the same time, there is a growing awareness of this development that immigration is an integral part and an enrichment of French society. The 1998 World Cup (the équipe tricolore won the title in their own country, most of the players had a migration background), the opening of a museum on the history of immigration (Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration , CNHI, inaugurated on October 10, 2007) and the appointment of Rachida Dati as the first female minister from an immigrant family (in office 2007–2009) apply.

Phases of migration policy opening and closing (1990s to 2010s)

The immigration and integration policy of the last few decades has been subject to permanent change, depending heavily on the respective government constellation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Conservative Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (Rassemblement Pour la République, RPR) pursued the goal of a zero immigration policy (immigration zéro). Numerous migration policy regulations were tightened. The waiting period for family reunification was extended from one to two years and foreign graduates from French universities were no longer allowed to take up work in France. In particular, the "fight" against irregular migration came into focus. The introduction of the so-called "Pasqua Laws", with which, among other things, naturalization was made difficult, was hotly controversial. The protests culminated in 1996 when a church in Paris was occupied by migrants from African countries and China who had lived in France for many years and wanted to draw attention to their precarious situation. Thousands of people supported the Sans-Papiers' protests. [8]

The center-left government under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (Parti Socialiste, PS) withdrew or weakened many of the restrictive regulations from 1997 onwards. It also created a special immigration status for highly qualified workers, scientists and artists. In 1997, a legalization program was also launched for foreigners who were staying in the country without a corresponding permit (see the chapter on irregular immigration). In the presidential elections in 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the candidate for the right-wing extremist Front National, surprisingly reached the second round of elections for the first time in history. With a migration and anti-European program, Le Pen received more votes than Lionel Jospin and shocked large parts of France.

The years 2002-2012, in which both the government and the president (Jacques Chirac until 2007 and Nicolas Sarkozy 2007-2012) were provided by conservatives, were marked by a return to a more restrictive immigration policy and a more conflictual approach to immigration and integration. The rhetoric of the interior minister at the time, Sarkozy, was particularly controversial. In 2005, he referred to suburban residents as "racaille" (scum) and announced that he wanted to clean the suburbs with a "Kärcher".

Migration policy restrictions were reflected, among other things, in a new immigration law (loi relative à l limmigration et à l’intégration), which was passed on June 30, 2006 and was intended to control immigration in a more demand-oriented manner (immigration choisie; German: chosen immigration). It contains stricter requirements for family reunification, a newly created residence permit for particularly qualified employees (carte compétences et talents) and a mandatory admission and integration contract (contrat d'accueil et d'intégration, CAI) for foreigners who want to stay in the country permanently . The integration contract provides for participation in civil society training and language courses. If immigrants fail to meet their integration obligations, this can jeopardize the extension of their residence permit. [9] The automatic legalization of immigrants who have been living in France for at least ten years without a residence permit has been abolished. [10] Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency was also marked by a "fight against illegal immigration". The number of deportations rose slightly. The ongoing conflict issue was dealing with Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, which led to great criticism internationally. Since 2010, illegal Roma settlements have been dissolved and hundreds of Roma have been deported to their countries of origin, mainly to Romania and Bulgaria. [11]

The socialist government under President François Hollande (2012-2017) again followed a more moderate course. However, these were largely overshadowed by persistent economic problems, the European "refugee crisis" and several serious terrorist attacks in France (see the chapter on Recent developments in migration policy).