Life for Africans in France

Africans in France
French police evicting African women and children

Since becoming Interior Minister in 2005, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy regularly looked to the far right to find votes.

For Louis-Georges Tin, president of the Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires, the Sarkozy presidency created an intolerable atmosphere for Africans and other immigrants.

This ranged from the succession of laws on immigration (five in total), to the debates on national identity that stigmatised swathes of the population.

“Even the Pope had to intervene in 2010, so shocked was he at the violence of the attacks by French politicians on the Roma,” says Tin.

The establishment of a quota system for the annual deportation of immigrants led to excesses of police zeal as they tried to match their targets.

As journalists Stephen Smith and François Glaser pointed out, there are some 120,000 Malians in France and 900,000 Chinese. While there were dozens of flights to take illegal immigrants back to Bamako, there were none to Beijing.

Part of this is down to the post-war immigration policies that opened the doors to large numbers of African workers to be employed in factories and housed in artificial cités far from the centres of major cities.

Despite the rhetoric of integration, these communities had unequal access to education and the workplace, and the children of immigrants suffered the consequences.

In 2008, the Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques estimated that there were 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants or their direct descendants in France, some 19% of the population.

They are largely responsible for having brought the birth rate back up to replacement level, helping France to avoid the ‘greying’ demographic time bomb that awaits most European countries.