French Immigration History


The role of immigration in the development of France as an European nation is significant. For the French, immigration originated from within Europe and Africa. The overriding theme of inward immigration to France was economics and specifically labour. France in its early development(1850-1870) was concerned with building its empire.

The aforementioned situation continued up to and beyond the First World War(1914-1918). Immigrant workers were required to sustain the French War effort. Inward immigration for labour purposes ended because of World War Two, but after its conclusion it was reintroduced.

The Post War period in France saw a change in terms of French immigration policy. Its policy took on a more selective nature and it selected European workers over African workers. The French Government aimed to limit the influence of immigrants upon French society by concentrating their policy upon European workers. The matter of economics undermined French Post War immigration policy, which in turn saw more inward immigration from the African continent

The theme of inward immigration was economics, but immigration from the African continent transformed into a political issue from the 1960s onwards. The immigration of the 1960s was increasing the immigrant population and this gave rise to issues of difference amongst the French population. The French Government were aware of this and they acted to contain the situation by banning inward immigration.

The aforementioned action stopped immigration from Africa, but the French government were not done there and they tried to stop immigrants reuniting with their families. In the period leading up to the Eighties, the French government adopted an hostile stance towards immigrants and were trying to gloss over the fact that immigrants were part of French society.

The History of France and immigration is one of accepting change. During the Eighties and the Nineties its immigration policy was restrictive, the French Government change back its policy concerning immigrants. The theme of French policy towards immigrants and even its own French citizens was to suppress other people's cultural beliefs.France being part of the European Union suggests things are changing , the French have to accept that they can be no longer culturally isolated. Contemporary France is multi cultural society and is part of a multi cultural Europe, but it has an long way to go in terms of French legislation and the restriction of cultural beliefs.