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Immigration in France
A greater percentage of the 3 million Muslims who live in France are of North West Africa origin. Such statistics is owed to the events of the First World War that saw soldiers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia sent to fight along side French fighters (Laroui, 1970). Algeria sent at least 173-000 men to the World War I many of whom lost their lives. Of the 56,000 soldiers that Tunisia sent, 12,000 never returned to their native Tunisia (Seljuq, 1997). Moroccan soldiers were charged with the responsibility of defending Paris at the height of the First World War. Other than the troops, the Maghreb also provided France with relief and manpower to replace French personnel who were engaged in the military. By 1919, almost 119,000 Algerian youths had taken up jobs in French factories. Moroccan workers started trickling to Bordeaux as early as 1916. By 1980, 25% of the inner Paris neighborhood was Algerian (Seljuq, 1997). Muslims are the second largest religious group after Roman Catholics in France. The North African Muslims have co-existed peacefully with local French population. However, because of social and political developments around them, the peace has since gone. The North African immigrants have faced myriad tribulations because of their religious awareness, their quest to retain religious awareness and resolve to address socioeconomic disparities they have witnessed (Seljuq, 1997). They are a disgruntled lot especially because of French government policy regarding the Muslim world and waves of subversive activities meted on them. This research paper seeks to analyze immigration in France from a sociological perspective focusing on discrimination against immigrants in France. The paper specifically addresses political and public attitudes towards immigrants of Northwest coast of Africa.
Immigrants from Africa and the Maghreb find it rough integrating into the larger France's community. Unlike visitors from the European Union, immigrants from Africa and the Maghreb are subjected to rigorous background check by airport officials. Integrating into French society is a daunting task for these immigrants (Cosgrove, 2010). French laws, from the time of the right wing minister Charles Pasqua, have been tightened to make it very difficult for foreigners to live in certain neighborhoods. Immigrants are treated like second class citizens. Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians are the bulk of 6.5 million immigrants living in France. They are often subjected to random ID checks by the police and the riot police (Cosgrove, 2010). Those of them found without adequate IDs are normally taken into custody. To them constant ID checks is part of their livelihoods something that others like those coming from the European Union are never subjected to. In fact, other foreign nationals do not even bother carrying their IDs, as carrying driving license is enough. However much they are qualified, the Maghrebis are less likely to be hired in high paying and prestigious jobs. It is very rare to find them occupying positions of company administration, sales and management. This also applies to production facilities and factories. Despite the fact that there are antidiscrimination legislations, not so much has changed with regard to these immigrants integration into the labor market. Immigrants from the North West Africa are also under-represented in the France's civil service (Cosgrove, 2010). Some of them have been refused private accommodation because of their origins. The inmates with North West Africa descent are the majority in France correctional facilities. They constitute 65% of the entire prison population. The French government strictly interprets issues regarding secularity that is why it is extremely difficult to obtain official figures on work place racism and housing market exclusion. Because citizens of France are expected to strictly adhere to institutionalized idea that they are French first and members of minority second, positive discrimination has thrived in many spheres. Consequently, figures on racial and ethnic minority abuse do not exist in many cases. This implies that racism cannot be pinpointed and discussed because of the misplaced argument that all French citizens are equal, so there can never be racism (Cosgrove, 2010).
Majority of the Maghrebis living in France are Muslims. Some of them have been forced to dress in a certain manner to comply with certain provisions in law (Laroui, 1970). We can refresh our memory with the 22nd October, 1989 incident where many Muslims demonstrated against the banning of headscarf. Muslim girls were expelled from Gabriel-Havez Secondary school in Criel for wearing head scarf. This was occasioned by Francois Bayrou's regulation that banned the wearing of ostentatious religious insignia in French Schools (Seljuq, 1997). The French government has continued to provide to private catholic mission schools something that has not been replicated to Islamic schools that have been denied financial assistance.
Muslims populations are pressured to abandon observance of strict religious traditions and rituals. Proprietors of Muslim cemeteries have on the recent past been pressured to allow other religious groups to burry their dead in these cemeteries. Some Muslim cemeteries have also been desecrated. Moreover, their practice that involves sacrificing animals has come under intense criticism if Brigitte Bardot assertion that the Islamic tradition is a barbaric custom from dark ages is anything to go by. Bardot has gone ahead to criticize the tradition of Abraham (Seljuq, 1997).
Immigrants from the Maghreb are faced with financial difficulties, unemployment, and economic inequalities. Because they are unskilled, they are only do menial jobs that attract bad remunerations. This has sparked spates of racism and ethnic violence. This has threatened the stability and integrity of French social fabric. Many African immigrants are unemployed. They have also been forced to contend with antisocial tendencies and psychological complexes. The Jacques Chirac administration framed tougher immigration laws that target Muslim from the Northwest coast of Africa (Seljuq, 1997). These laws authorized local administration to expel illegal immigrants. The frontier police were given the authority to refuse immigrants entry into French territory. The local administration was also granted the privilege of granting automatic citizenship to children with foreign parents. These legislations prompted expulsion of 1700 illegal immigrants (Seljuq, 1997). Muslims who have French nationality are supposed to be French citizens, however; this was not rue for the Harakis who supported and fought for France against their own countrymen. The French government has now turned against them and branded them Muslim activists (Seljuq, 1997). The Harakis fled to France after the fall of French colonial power in Algeria where they were given French citizenship. French nationalist movements constantly pressure the Harakis to move back to their native Algeria in utter disregard of the fact that they have been born and brought up in France (Seljuq, 1997). Their population has since risen to 450-000. The Harakis are a disillusioned and a disenchanted lot. They have become vulnerable to crime and subversive activities given that majority of them are unemployed (Lewis, 1980).
The Northwest coast Africans staying in France have also fallen victim to the fear of Islamic fundamentalism that the west grapples with. Islamic activists and terrorists have henceforth been lumped together regardless of the fact that the act of a small group cannot be misconstrued to reflect the character of a nation. French immigrants' woes have been compounded by the equation of Muslim with terrorism (Shen, 2009).
Majority of French citizens continue to blame ethnic minorities for increase in unemployment, crime and dilapidated educational standards. Immigrants are looked at as more likely to commit crime than nay other French citizens. Quite significant populations of French citizens are in support of repatriation of unemployed immigrants. Some of them also support forcible repatriation of these immigrants (Shen, 2009).
The waves of xenophobic feelings that have swept across Frances' social and political landscape continue to be exploited by individuals for political gains. Politicians implicitly support racist policies. This can be attested by their campaigns, slogans and speeches. Immigrants have in some quarters been called colonials (Shen, 2009). Prestigious universities and graduate schools in France recruit most of their students from limited sociological pool of the white, the wealthy and the well connected. Catholic, Protestant and Jews schools are under state supervision while the Muslim schools do not (Shen, 2009). The Muslim chaplains are excluded from the French army a stark contrast with those of the Catholic, Protestant and Jews. Immigrants of African origin also content with implicit and explicit racism that manifest in employment advertisements with phrases like "French only," "white woman wanted to care for elderly lady," 'no persons of color" and "position for intern of French cultural origin" very common. Immigrants from Africa and especially from the Islamic Maghreb are particularly targeted by such advertisements (Shen, 2009).
Religion plays an integral part in lives of French citizens. Because North Africans tend to appear more religious than other immigrants, they are often tied to Muslim culture that is seen to oppose western Christianity by many French citizens. Religious conflicts between the Maghrebis and the native French plays out in a number of ways (Shen, 2009). The Maghrebis explicitly display their religious beliefs. They build meticulous mosques and revel in donning religious attires, a practice that…[continue]
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