Immigration in France. Ethnic Statistics: yes, but not too much... | Ghania Khelifi
Immigration in France. Ethnic Statistics: yes, but not too much... Print
Ghania Khelifi   
The stench of the debate on national identity initiated by the its ministry have not yet dissipated and the French Minister for Immigration and National Identity has once more introduced new and harder clauses with regards to foreigners.
Immigration in France. Ethnic Statistics: yes, but not too much... | Ghania KhelifiThis law project reinforces the trend of chosen immigration, that is, selecting skilled foreigners that can obtain French nationality more quickly (two years instead of the five current ones) obviously if they prove that they have well integrated. For all the rest, the wretched of the earth, it would become more and more difficult to stay or to work in France if they don’t have the precious residence permit. Expulsions, heavy financial penalties on workers and employers, new forms of detention, longer residence prohibitions, the arsenal is brutal.

Considered as a land of asylum and hospitality for a long time, France now closes its doors and huddles up over its laws and discriminations. It is not enough to be in a regular situation or even to have French nationality in order to have all opportunities when you come from abroad. The two surveys released in the beginning of April by the INSEE (French statistics institute), in collaboration with the INED (National Demographic Studies Institute) confirm what everyone already knows. Before tackling their content, it’s important to remind the context in which these studies were launched. Both institutions have suffered the attacks of several unions and organizations struggling against racism and discriminations. They were accused of giving themselves to ethnic statistics, a concept which is still taboo in France. The researches had publicly presented their arguments in response to a petition against the project launched by SOS-Racism. The signatories had explained that their research proposed “a basis for objective and figured reflection in order to quantify certain phenomena”.

In France, ethnic statistics have been at the centre of controversies and debates for years. In 2007, the Constitutional Council had censored the law project on this type of statistics proposed by the Minister of Immigration. Even more recently, last February, the Committee for the Measurement of Diversity and Discriminations (COMEDD) handed its report to the Commissioner for equal opportunities recommending in substance that ethno-racial criteria should be removed from important public statistic surveys but researchers can include them under control in the case of targeted surveys. Experts recommend limiting them to the use of data issued by the civil status – country of origin, nationality – for ordinary public statistics and propose to introduce the same data on two generations in order to “be able to follow the trajectory of the immigrants’ children”. The experts were also careful to warn that they will make their voices heard if their work was appropriated for political purposes.

Immigration in France. Ethnic Statistics: yes, but not too much... | Ghania KhelifiAfter being approved by the CNIS (National Council for Statistical Information) and the CNIL (National Commission for Information Technology and Freedom), the study entitled “Trajectories and Origins” has finally been authorized. This survey was carried out end 2008, beginning 2009. It confirms that the origin remains the first source of discrimination. 40% of the people that consider themselves discriminated are immigrants of children of immigrants. The 25-34 year old constitute the age group that is most targeted when they are looking for their first job or looking for a first apartment. In this category, tertiary education diploma holders are 39% more in risk of being discriminated or to at least feel as such. On the other hand, women of immigrant origins feel more tolerated as they are subject to less discrimination in certain contexts such as the access to nightclubs or in their relationship with the police.

When it comes to identity control in the street, policemen take it out mainly on men, preferably young. According to the INSEE, Immigrants in France, are not only the most discriminated but also the poorer, with a third lower standard of living than that of non immigrants. The Institute reveals that differences are significant according to the geographical origin: 14% less for households where the person of reference comes from the European Union and 43% less when this person is a Maghreb native.

Immigration in France. Ethnic Statistics: yes, but not too much... | Ghania KhelifiNorth Africans still represent the majority of immigrant populations. 20% of the 3.1 million children of immigrants between the age of 18 and 50 have at least a father or a mother coming for Algeria and 15% from Morocco or Tunisia and 4% from Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, 5 million immigrants lived in France, that is 8% of the population and their children amounted to 6.5 millions that is 11% of the population. This means that the diversity of the French population is not imaginary even if some continue to deny it the space it reclaims. The Club21Siècle, an elitist association whose objectives are to “ameliorate the situation by refusing all that separates and to modify representations” and to convince that “diversity is an asset for France” had asked the Minister of the Interior in 2009 to launch a big survey on the social destiny of children of immigrants. This request deserves to be highlighted because it’s against all protests against ethnic statistics. The Club21, created by immigrants’ children and French citizens coming from Dom-Tom belonging to higher socio professional categories claims the visibility of successful trajectories and integration in order to finish with these clichés of violence and communitarianism linked to French people of foreign origin.

Ghania Khelifi
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech
may 2010