Are there too many foreigners in France?


Naturally, there are large differences in the regional distribution of the proportion of foreigners. Some of them are historically established and have been related to immigration since the mid-19th century. Since then, there has always been a high proportion of foreigners in the industrial regions of the north. Especially after the decolonization of the North African countries, the proportion of immigrants from the Maghreb countries in the southern half of the country rose dramatically. In contrast, the proportion of foreigners in the west of the country is traditionally low.

The majority of foreigners, however, live in the capital region. According to the last census (1999), 40% of all foreigners in France were registered in the Ile-de-France alone. The regions Rhône-Alpes (11%) and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (10%) also have high concentrations, so that these three regions alone account for around 60% of the French foreign population. In contrast, the proportion in the western regions is well below the national average, namely in Brittany, the Pays de la Loire and in Basse-Normandie (all below 2.5%). One of the noticeable features is that the majority of the foreign population lives in cities. Only three percent of them are registered in rural communities (data from INSEE-Première 748, 2000: 2). But even within the cities there is no even distribution. Rather, clear tendencies towards ghettoization can be observed, which is in part the result of a self-willed isolation from the French population, but the exclusion of this population is at least to the same extent the reason for spatial distribution patterns that are far from the image of social integration of the Placing foreigners in French society.

Share with French
Nationality (1999)

Source: compiled from Simon 2001: Tab. 4 and 5.

The conditions in the Ile-de-France clearly show this. The absolute number of the foreign population here was 1.3 million in 1999, i.e. around 11.9% of the total population. This results in a clear regional focus based on ethnic origin. It is mainly concentrated in Dépt, north of Paris. Seine-St-Denis, due to its difficult economic situation (old industrial area) one of the problem areas of the capital region, especially the Algerian immigrant population. In municipalities such as La Courneuve, Saint-Denis, Bobigny or Bagnolet, their share of the total population is over a quarter, sometimes even a third. Villetaneuse, Saint-Ouen, Aulnay-sous-Bois also show high proportions of Maghrebians (here roughly the same proportion of Algerians and Moroccans), while black Africans, for example, in Le Bourget, Rosny-sous-Bois or Montreuil, the Turks in Clichy-sous -Bois and in Montfermeil are represented with particularly high proportions. Within the urban area of ​​Paris, the Asian population is concentrated in the 1st, 2nd and 10th arrondissement, black Africans form significant minority groups in the 18th and 19th arrondissements, the examples can be continued ...

Immigrant population in France
by country of origin 1990 and 1999





Source: Pletsch 2003, p. 126

It turns out that there are great differences in terms of the social and economic integration of the various ethnic groups. Immigrants from North African countries in particular are problem groups in many places, not just in the greater Paris area. This has led to a clear polarization between the French and foreign populations, which all too often take on racist undertones and repeatedly lead to tangible disputes regionally. The riots at the beginning of the 1980s and 1990s have taken on the scale of regular street battles, and not just in the suburbs of Paris. They raised the public awareness of the problems with foreigners and made it clear that France has become a social hotspot, the attributes of which include unemployment, exclusion, poverty, immigration, racism, xenophobia, violence and terror. Loch (1999: 118) writes about this: "Even if it has meanwhile become used to it, the suburbs remain a constant topic of media attention. The problems are brought to a head for the immigrant youth of Maghrebian origin, although a characteristic of the French suburbs is that their population is ethnically heterogeneous and the social problems also affect many Franco-French."