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Inequalities in migrants' treatment in France: Challenges & prospects for reception and integration

By Elisabeth Jérôme Nanga | Issue 23

Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash.

The issue of migration holds a central place on the global agenda of the 21st century, and France is no exception to this phenomenon. In 2022, 7 million immigrants lived in France, which is 10.3% of the total population. Out of these, 2.5 million immigrants (35% of them) have become French citizens. According to the French National Institute of Statistics (INSEE), 48.2% of immigrants living in France were born in Africa, 32.3% were born in Europe. The most common countries of birth of immigrants are Algeria (12.5%), Morocco (11.9%), Portugal (8.2%), Tunisia (4.7%), Italy (4.0%), Spain (3.5%) and Turkey (3.3%). As a host country for a significant number of migrants, France faces complex challenges related to the reception and integration of these diverse populations. Among the crucial aspects of this issue are the inequalities in the treatment of migrants. While migration is often perceived as a matter of security, economics, or culture, the phenomenon of migration is increasingly viewed through the lens of social inequalities. This study aims to explore in depth the multiple factors of inequalities in the treatment of migrants in France and the resulting effects, with a focus on the challenges they pose, as well as the prospects for a more equitable and inclusive integration.

Factors contributing to inequalities in the treatment of migrants

Inequalities in the treatment of migrants in France result from numerous complex and interrelated factors. Firstly, the legal status of migrants, particularly whether they are asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants, or undocumented, significantly influences their access to rights and services, with those in irregular situations often facing more severe inequalities due to their precarious status. Furthermore, discrimination based on nationality, ethnic origin, or religion can affect migrants' access to employment, housing, healthcare, and education. Language barriers also pose significant challenges as migrants who do not speak French may struggle to integrate. Additionally, migrants may face complex administrative procedures to obtain residence permits, seek asylum, or access other rights and services.

Effects of inequalities in the treatment of migrants

Inequalities in treatment have several significant effects on migrants in France, and these effects can be observed at various levels, including within public policies, society, and migrants' daily lives. Inequalities, whether related to legal status, discrimination, or language barriers, impact migrants' ability to access essential services such as healthcare, education, and housing, with migrants in precarious situations often having limited access to these services, which can compromise their well-being and integration. Inequalities in the job market are common for migrants, as those facing employment discrimination or unrecognised qualifications often struggle to find stable and well-paying jobs. Data from the INSEE revealed that France has 7 million immigrants, whose living conditions are marked by greater poverty and difficulties related to employment. Migrants who do not have a strong command of the French language face significant integration obstacles as communication difficulties limit their opportunities. Discrimination based on religious affiliation can result in unfair treatment, negative stereotypes, and hostile attitudes. The effects of inequalities in the treatment of migrants are complex and interdependent and may vary based on legal status, origin, age, and other individual factors. Addressing these inequalities and promoting equitable migrant integration remains a significant challenge for French society.

Challenges and perspectives for the reception and integration of migrants in France

The challenges and perspectives for the reception and integration of migrants in France are numerous and complex. Migrants may encounter difficulties accessing essential services such as healthcare, education, and housing due to language barriers, discrimination, or administrative issues. Integration into the job market is a significant challenge as migrants in France face employment discrimination or have qualifications that are not recognised, hindering their integration. In 2021, among immigrants aged 15 to 64, 25.6% were inactive and 68.0% were employed. Among those who were active, 8.6% were unemployed. Delays in asylum application processing and overcrowding in reception centres pose real challenges, as processing times are assessed on a case-by-case basis. France is developing and implementing effective integration policies to assist migrants in integrating into society. These include French language instruction, vocational training, and exposure to French culture. Furthermore, partnerships between the government, non-governmental organisations, and other civil society actors are strengthening efforts in reception and integration.

In conclusion, the study of inequalities in the treatment of migrants in France reveals a complex and nuanced landscape. The challenges faced by migrants are varied and profound, ranging from limited access to essential services to discrimination and stigmatisation. These inequalities are not only detrimental to migrants themselves but also have implications for French society as a whole, particularly in terms of social cohesion and economic potential. However, despite these challenges, there are promising prospects. The French government has implemented policies aimed at improving the reception and integration of migrants, thus reinforcing efforts to reduce inequalities but also promoting equal rights and opportunities for all migrants, regardless of their status or origin, and to combat systemic discrimination.

Elisabeth Jérôme Nanga is a PhD student in Geopolitics at the RURALITES EA-2252 laboratory at the University of Poitiers. She is highly active in the non-profit sector, where she has regularly worked with a diverse range of migrants (both voluntary and forced) for public organisations such as Reception and Orientation Centers (CAO). In addition, she has conducted research on the reception of African refugees in Saint-Herblain, Loire-Atlantique (France). She completed three Masters Degrees specifically in International Relations and Strategic Studies, in European International Law, and in European Public Policies. Rooted in the field of international migration, her current doctoral research sheds light on the impact of community security cooperation processes in the Gulf of Guinea on the reception of African nationals in France. You can reach her at:


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