The charter that effectively erases the notion of illegal immigration
FIGAROVOX/OPINION : A joint communiqué issued by the Ministries of the Interior and Housing effectively erases the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Alexis Théas, academic and jurist, dreads the open invitation that this shift in French immigration policy could bring about.
On the 1st August 2016, the ministers of Interior and Housing published a communiqué that passed completely unnoticed in the summer torpor, but which is of the utmost importance in the evolution of French political mentality and ideology. This text marks a new departure in French thinking on immigration. Hitherto, this was based on the distinction between regular and illegal immigration. The first, conforming with the law, was intended for example to take in workers that France had a need for; to educate students in the interests of France or of their countries of origin; or again to underwrite the principle of family reunion. This accounted for about 200,000 people per year. By contrast, clandestine migrants, having entered or residing in breach of the law, had to return to their countries, whether voluntarily or by force. Such was the principle. This distinction, for the first time since immigration became a political issue at the beginning of the 1980s, seems now to have been erased by the state. Clandestine migrants are no longer required to be repatriated, but are to be welcomed in France and cared for by the public authorities, in the same way as a legal entrant or a French citizen in difficulty.
❝The fundamental distinction between regular and illegal immigration seems to have been erased by the state.❞
To quote from the communiqué: ❝Created on the 25th February last, at the behest of Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, and of Emmanuelle Cosse, Minister of Housing and Environment, the monitoring committee for the housing of homeless migrants met again on Tuesday, 26th July 2016. With Emmanuelle Cosse presiding, and in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry for Families, Childhood, and Womens’ Rights, and of the Prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais, this meeting assembled about thirty associations engaged in the care of migrants. The public authorities took the opportunity to acknowledge their work and their all-out efforts to meet the demands of this unprecedented migration crisis. At the meeting, the Ministers of Interior and Housing presented the associations with the Charter for the Operation of the Centres of Reception and Orientation (CAO). Responding to a wish shared by the state and associated agencies, and drafted after several weeks of dialogue with the managers of the reception centres, this Charter lays down clear operating procedures and describes the principal services to be delivered to migrants who are without shelter, and who are received there: conditions of reception and placement, staff-migrant ratios, catering, assessment – legal, social, and medical – of the situation of persons received, suitable care, security etc. Making use of a CAO should therefore allow migrants without shelter to benefit from a period of respite and to commence, if they wish, the process of applying for asylum. It also permits them to gain access to an offer of tailored care, and to be quickly made aware of the services that meet their needs (CADA for asylum-seekers, etc.). Since the 27th October last, 148 Centres of Reception and Orientation have been opened across the whole of the country, with close to 2,000 locations offering shelter to more than 4,700 people at very short notice.❞
❝Humanitarian associations, proponents of total freedom of movement, have been dreaming of this for at least forty years.❞
In other words, this communiqué buries, de facto, the whole notion of irregular immigration. It abolishes the clear separation of legality from illegality in matters of immigration. It chimes in with the law of 7th March 2016, the provisions of which make it very difficult to carry out deportations. It proclaims that France has the duty to accept and care for every foreigner on its territory, whether he has been authorized to enter and stay or not. De facto, the principle thus proclaimed abrogates the concept of a frontier or respect for the regulation of entry and sojourn. Humanitarian associations, ideologues, proponents of total freedom of movement, have all been dreaming of this for at least forty years. M. Cazeneuve and Mme Cosse have done it. The question is how great will be the likely future effect of the open invitation that this profound transformation in French immigration policy implies. The communiqué announces that France is now ‘open’, that illegal migrants will no longer be pushed back, but on the contrary, will be welcomed. The potential for emigration has been increased: hundreds of millions of people, disinherited and at a loose end in this turbulent world, think only of finding a safe haven. It remains to be seen whether France, which has five million unemployed, gigantic housing problems, hundreds of thousands living below the poverty line, a thousand tense suburbs ruined by violence, social exclusion, ghettoization, and radical islamism, whether this France has the means to accept further immigration. But for M. Cazeneuve and Mme Cosse, this is quite another issue. And one that they do not appear keen to make their own.