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Why did Portuguese come to France?

Why are there so many Portuguese people in France? P.S.

29 May 2019
By Oliver Rowland

People born in Portugal represent the largest group of immigrants here, defined as those born abroad of a foreign nationality and now living in France, after people born in Algeria and Morocco.

There are more than 600,000 people, not counting their descendants born in France, the latest figures from Insee show.

A 2015 study of demographics estimated there were 1.2 million people of Portuguese origin, including a second generation who were born in France.

Immigration from Portugal was especially high in a period from the late 1950s to early 1970s, linked to the fact that Portugal was under an authoritarian, far-right regime and was economically poor.

In 17 years from 1958 to 1975, the population of Portuguese people in France rose from 20,000 to 750,000, according to the Palais de la Porte Dorée national immigration museum.

This was despite the fact that this migration was against the law in Portugal and was costly and dangerous, organised via illegal networks of passeurs.

Many went to work on building sites and often lived in slum bidonville areas.

At first mostly men, the process became easier from the mid-60s when the Spanish government stopped seeking to prevent Portuguese people passing through.

France also adopted a policy of systematically allowing them to stay. Some say this was partly as they were white and Christian and seen by the authorities of the time as easier to assimilate than people who were arriving from north Africa.

From that point, more women and children also came to France.

This favourable policy towards the Portuguese lasted until 1974 in France, a year in which democracy was also established in Portugal.

After that, emigration dropped off before it rose again after 1992 when Portuguese people gained EU free movement to France, where salaries were higher. There was also a renewed rise after the economic crisis of 2008.

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