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New report in France proposes revisiting France’s integration policies

11.04.2018, FRANCE

New report in France proposes revisiting France’s integration policies

According to a new report, France’s integration policies need revamping to provide more effective integration pathways for migrants and refugees.
In late 2017 a French Member of Parliament from the ruling party La République en Marche, Aurelien Taché, was commissioned by the Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, to conduct an in-depth survey of integration policy in France. To do so Taché carried out extensive fieldwork over a period of several months and on this basis he recently published a report containing 72 recommendations for improving the French response to the challenges posed by integrating migrants and refugees. Taché called for a comprehensive policy whereby local, regional and national, government and civil society initiatives function together in a coherent manner.

One of the main findings was a certain consensus among stakeholders who expressed their dissatisfaction with the current approach for integration. A more global, integrated approach was called for in order to improve coherence among actors, policies and practices. Concern was also conveyed towards the ever-decreasing budget allotted to integration mechanisms. Taché’s report then interrogates possibilities for developing a comprehensive, responsible integration policy which would allow immigrants and refugees alike to flourish and make a contribution to French society.
Currently, the common law (droit commun) approach dominates in France, which implies that there is little need to develop measures specifically targeting the integration of immigrant and refugees populations. Indeed, France’s only integration policy is enshrined in the Republican Integration Contract (CIR). This “contract”, last reformed in 2016, provides its signatories with two days worth of civic training and up to 200 hours of language training. For Taché, these measures do not allow for a “personalized integration pathway” as provided for by the law. 
In this regard, Taché calls for the development of what he terms a pragmatic approach based on the results of his survey. While Taché praised the underlying thrust of the CIR which sets out to establish a social contract between the individual and the state, he nonetheless calls for its reappraisal. Above all he calls for initiatives which promote employment prospects and vocational training to feature more prominently and be integrated into the core mission of the CIR. Furthermore, he draws attention to the need for increasing the number of hours of language training as well as calling for gender sensitive policies such as developing child care facilities during the language training programmes.

The report also signals that more attention should be paid to ensuring the coordination of initiatives to promote housing access with initiatives centred on labour market access, in order to favour the autonomy of migrants and refugees. Among his 72 recommendations, Taché encourages opening up routes towards citizenship, notably by linking more strongly to motivation, simplifying procedures for the renewal of residency permits, facilitating the process by which migrants and refugees can open up a bank account, or ensuring an interpreter service in relevant institutions. In line with NGOs like France terre d’asile, one of the more controversial proposals made by Taché is that of targeting asylum seekers with integration measures, from opening up language training to this population or enabling them to work after six months if their application has not been processed. 
As well as strengthening state led initiatives, Taché recalls the important role to be played by civil society and underlines the importance of providing a flourishing environment to maximise civic engagement.
Taché’s report was released at a pivotal time as the government is currently finalizing its draft bill on migration and asylum. While integration has been declared as a priority area by the French President since his electoral campaign in 2017, it remains to be seen whether his propositions will be adopted and given the financial and human means to have effect.

Created: Shoshana FINE, France terre d'asile

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