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Immigration, residency: The policies of French election candidates

Which candidates would make it harder – or easier – for foreigners to settle in France? We also look at what some say about language tests and dual citizenship

France's 12 presidential election candidates have drafted proposals regarding immigration, citizenship and integration Pic: justit / Shutterstock

France's 12 presidential election candidates have drafted proposals regarding immigration, citizenship and integration. 

Predictably far-left candidate stances are among the most favourable to expanding immigrants’ rights, while the far-right want to toughen controls. President-candidate Emmanuel Macron is one of the candidates who has expressed the least on this issue.

Here is what candidates are proposing:

Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte ouvrière)

Ms Arthaud (far-left and anti-capitalist) is pro-immigration, with proposals aimed at facilitating the integration of foreign communities and undocumentated people into French society.

She said she would welcome any immigrant as part of a policy that would grant free access to France to all and that immigrants expelled from their country of birth should be welcomed “like brothers and sisters.”

She would also abolish national borders, a campaign proposal which is part of a project to build the “socialist United States of Europe” in which the European Union would show “unity and fraternity.” 

She said she will abolish the ‘Règlement Dublin II’, a European law determining which EU country is responsible for processing asylum applications.

She would allow immigrants to vote in all elections.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France)

The far-right candidate is considered a ‘souverainiste,’ and thus opposes the European Union’s sovereignty over France. His proposals are ‘French-first’ and would toughen controls on foreigners and immigrants.

Mr Dupont-Aignan wants to “protect” French-speaking countries from the supposed invasion of the English language and globish English or ‘Franglish.’

He said he would renegotiate the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, two legislative texts which forbid the expulsion of illegal immigrants and make it obligatory for foreigners without legal residency status to be released from prison depending on the conditions of where they are being held

He wants to expel illegal convicted immigrants once their sentence is finished and favours sentencing in their native country where possible. Likewise, he wants to send unaccompanied underage immigrants back to their native country to be reunited with their parents.

Read more: French presidential election: Key candidates and their main policies

Under Mr Dupont-Aignan’s leadership, the droit du sol would be abolished. Droit du sol - also known as the jus soli - refers to the idea that citizenship is automatic to everyone born in France.

He said the criteria for becoming a French citizen would include a “challenging” naturalisation process, including a solid understanding of the French language. 

Anne Hidalgo (Parti socialiste)

The socialist candidate proposes a “peaceful and thoughtful” immigration policy, with asylum-seekers being hosted in appropriate settings. She said she wanted to legalise undocumented citizens who have been living in France for “a long period.” while still pledging to fighting against illegal immigration.

She said she wanted a “more humane, united and proficient,” immigration policy as part of a campaign proposal to reform Dublin II. She added that the current rules regarding the countries which deal with particular asylum requests are “arbitrary.”

Ms Hidalgo would launch a “two foreign languages for Europe” scheme, a European programme with the European parliament through which every European student would master the English language and another European language by the end of their studies. 

Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains)

Ms Pécresse said she wanted to condition access to French citizenship by children born in France to foreign parents on “the verification of their assimilation.” She said the delivery of a carte de séjour will be conditioned to a mandatory French language test.

She said she would allow regroupement familial family reunification by increasing funding and improving housing conditions, but put an end to “automatic” attribution of ‘droit du sol’ in relation to family reunification. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise)

Mr Mélenchon wants to legalise undocumented workers, foreign students and their parents in an effort to facilitate access to visas. He wants to set the 10-year-long carte de séjour as the default document for every immigrant coming in the country. 

He said he would open up voting rights to foreign residents in local elections.

Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche)

President-candidate Emmanuel Macron said he would condition the granting of four-year-long titres de séjour on “a French language test and an honest approach to work insertion.”

He wants to condition the issuing of visas on a collaborative, reciprocal relationship with the country of origin.  

Mr Macron has said that asylum application refusals will lead to automatic expulsion from the country in an effort to reduce administrative red tape. 

Mr Macron dismissed suggestions of immigration quotas in an interview with regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, adding it was “unrealistic. The country would not be able to manage it.”

Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!)

Mr Zemmour said he would propose a referendum on immigration once elected as part of a policy to reduce immigration to zero. He would also end ‘droit du sol’ and family reunification. 

He said he would expel “every illegal immigrant on our soil” and every convicted illegal offender.

Read more: French election candidate Eric Zemmour found guilty of hate speech

“Every person willing to gain French citizenship should be registered and willing to show their effective assimilation to the national community,” said Mr Zemmour. He wants to remove French citizenship for dual-citizenship residents convicted of crimes or multiple offences. 

He wants to end the “automatic renewal of the carte de séjour, particularly for unemployed workers and parents of convicted children. 

Mr Zemmour said he would prioritise single French mothers and working French citizens in social-housing. Likewise, he would restrict access to the ‘aide au logement’ (APL), a French housing benefit, to French and European citizens.

Jean Lassalle (Résistons!)

Mr Lassalle (right-wing) said he would reinforce police presence and checks at borders “where illegal immigration is concentrated.” 

Fabien Roussel (Parti communiste)

Mr Roussel wants to legalise undocumented workers, a policy he justified because “equality of status is a weapon against illegal work and prevents negative competitiveness between workers.”

Mr Roussel wants to open access to voting rights in local and European elections for foreign individuals living in France. 

Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National)

Ms Le Pen (far-right) proposes the abolition of ‘droit du sol’ and an end to access to French citizenship through marriage. She said she would toughen the conditions demanded of someone wishing to become a French citizen, without specifying how. 

She has also proposed to enshrine in the Constitution conditions which could lead to the withdrawal of French citizenship for dual-nationals.

Likewise, she would forbid the regularisation of illegal foreign individuals and increase expulsions. She proposes to expel foreign individuals who have not worked in France for more than a year. She would criminalise both the presence of illegal immigrants in the country and the conditions by which they may have arrived. 

Ms Le Pen said she would prioritise French citizens with regards to social and student housing access. 

Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)

Mr Poutou would allow voting rights for foreign individuals living in France as well as guaranteeing free circulation. 

Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie Les Verts)

Mr Jadot said he would not change any of the rules regarding access to citizenship. He said he would legalise undocumented citizens “with a job, family life or children enrolled in French schools.”

The ecologist candidate said he will grant legal work authorisation upon reception of an asylum-seeker demand. 

Mr Jadot said he would “renegotiate the immigration partnership between France and the UK to limit human tragedies at sea and on land.” He wants to draft new regulations for the règlement Dublin since it is “urgent to stop abandoning migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea or continents.”

Read more: Decathlon in Calais stops selling canoes due to Channel crossing risk

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