The Politics of Exclusion: France to pay immigrants to return home

Some 5 million immigrants, who are irregular residents in France and asking for the French citizenship, are eligible for this measure which opens the way to paying a family around 6000 euros in exchange for their returning to their country of origin. Sarkozy as minister of interior had already offered this measure to families. Some 3000 families accepted the deal. Now his immigration minister wants to offer it to individuals who are willing to use this money to invest it in their country of origin and start a business. The countries of origin of France's immigrants are mainly in north Africa.

Let me tell you why this is only posturing or "du vent", like they say in French, in terms of political and social handling of immigration, and a very dangerous measure, not only for the immigrants who will choose to stay, but also for the entire French society.

Sarkozy was elected thanks to the supproters of the far right, anti-immigration politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. However, anti-immigrant sentiments are not only restricted to Le Pen's supporters and have become pervasive among many, left or right, in a French society faced with acute problems related to access to jobs for the young and insecurity in Paris's suburbs. No matter how much facts and figures tell the story of a disgruntled young generation from the immigration, well integrated, but unable to lead a normal life, let alone find a job or an appartment to rent, having to fight an implicit discrimination in a country that boasts about its standing for Equality and Human Rights, Sarkozy and most of the French press controlled by Sarkozy's high profile friends in the business community, have made of immigration the number one issue, not for immigrants, but for the French society which was led to believe that immigration was the cause of its economic and social problems, problems which were mainly the result of the mismanagement of the country by Sarkozy's political governing party, the UMP, for the last 12 years.

Now Sarkozy wants to appear as an appeaser, a pacifier, and a generous compassionate person, while in fact following a very coherent goal for his political project for France: get rid of the poor, the unfit, and the weakest elements of the French society. What kind of family or individual would accept to leave for such a meager sum ? Even though it might represent something more substantial in his country of origin. This measure targets very few, those who live in squatters and in very dire conditions, those who are desperate and willing to cash in, or at the best, those who have some creative ideas and projects. Will the families who are able to send their children to school and, even unemployed, manage to live in the meanders and hardship of immigration while hoping for the better, accept this 'generous offer' ? Will individuals who are really creative and have projects accept the offer ? I bet not, or only very few of them. Immigration is made of hope and the hope for a better life cannot be bought for 6000 euros, unless, of course, one has lost any hope for the future or one has creativity, commitments, and some help to implement his project in his country of origin. These are the families and individuals who will accept Sarkozy's offer, the 'lowest of the low', those who lost any hope for the future, or the brightest of the low, those who are entrepreneurs and creative but lack money and means.

These are extremes on the Bell curve of immigration profiles.
Most likely, it will be the lowest of the low who will accept Sarkozy's offer because those who have a project for the future can still hope implementing a successful project for their life in France.

And how this measure will help 'development' in the countries of origins, as Sarkozy and his minister claim, when the families who will accept 6000 euros are the ones who in fact did not succeed in adapting to even a miserable life in France and had lost hope in the future ?

In fact what Sarkozy is doing, he is getting rid of the unfit elements of the French society and he can do so because thay are irregular immigrants, while, on the other hand, not offering a large scale solution to the problem of immigration per se for those who choose to stay and fight; integration, equality in rights, respect, and so on...Those who are in the middle of the Bell curve of immigration profiles. Or may be he will be going to make the life of these others who choose to stay so miserable that in the end he will be putting more and more of them outside the system. This is integration in reverse. French citizens should be very worry about this measure because when a country starts to get rid of its weak elements while marginalising the others, less weak, but still not completely fit for sarkozy's standards, the process can lead to abuses in all strata of society, and there are historical chilling examples for that.

Sarkozy's measure, although restricted, for the time being, to the most weak elements of the French society, is a perfect example of an explicit ideology for a politic of exclusion that will be the common feature for all Sarkozy's political decisions. It should raise the alarm bells in the French society. I am not worried only for these immigrants, after all, they might be happy just to cash in and return home, I am worried of what this kind of ideology might lead to in the future in France if Sarkozy will be given a green light from the French society and political parties, and if his measure will be welcomed with some admiration, as all his other moves, because it will be seen as a bold move, or a light embarrassement, at worse.

p.s: If you look at the Technorati page of the blogs discussing the story as reported by Der Spiegel, the measure seems to have already seduced some while right wing extremists are cheering. I hope there will be some kind of reaction, a strong one, from the Frecnch blogosphere. I am waiting for some substance on the subject that might prompt some real criticism, not only indignation or cheering.

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Since March 29th 2006