Macron's embrace of racist policies will be deadly for many

Macron's embrace of racist policies to win upcoming French elections will be deadly for many lives
6 min read
08 Oct, 2021
Opinion: Macron’s gamble - through racist rhetoric and policies - to garner more rightwing votes in the upcoming April 2022 French elections will only worsen lives within France and outside it, writes Malia Bouattia.
French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) talks to attendees during the annual tech conference "Inno Generation" in Paris, on 7 October, 2021. [Getty]

Another week, another anti-migrant measure is introduced in France. Macron's government seems hellbent on winning the upcoming April 2022 elections by out-doing the far-right on their own racist and xenophobic grounds. While this might, in and of itself, succeed, the long term consequences will be devastated by those being used as pawns in this electoral game.

 The French state, in just a few weeks, will be reducing the number of visas given to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians. The number of accepted applications is set to be halved for Algerians and Moroccans, while the figure for Tunisia is slightly lower: a 30% reduction.

"Macron's government seems hellbent on winning the upcoming April 2022 elections by out-doing the far-right on their own racist and xenophobic grounds"

 Gabriel Attal, a government spokesperson, admitted that it was "a drastic decision, and unprecedented", but defended the move by claiming that "[t]hese countries are refusing to take back nationals who we do not want or cannot keep in France." The government is arguing that the three targeted nations only have themselves to blame since, "[t[here was dialogue, then there were threats, and today we’re carrying out those threats," stated Attal.

 In reality, Macron has been pushing through reactionary measures on immigration since 2018, when a new (and harsher) migration law was introduced. Not to mention, his statements in recent months in reference to the potential influx of refugees from Afghanistan, following Western withdrawal from the territory, as the Taliban took control of the country.

From the beginning of the year until July alone, 7,731 Algerians were ordered to be removed from France, by judicial authorities. So much for healing old colonial wounds with Algerians that Macron made a whole song and dance about it with the launch of his "memories and truth" project. Through the latter, he supposedly sought to improve relations between the two countries.

Voices

The response by Algerian officials to the latest announcement was one of "formal protest" through the recall of their ambassador in France. Tunisian president, Kais Saied, responded very differently, stating that, "[w]e are among countries that are cooperative in this domain, and we have excellent relations with France." Morocco's Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, said that the action of the French government was "unjustified" and that, "Morocco will study it, but the reasons given to justify it require explanation and a dialogue, because they do not reflect reality."

Bourita also defended the kingdom's record on supporting France's deportation efforts by pointing out that 400 consular documents have been issued to Moroccans who are being thrown out of France. The number of those actually expelled was only lower because they refused to take Covid-19 tests upon departure, an obligation for anyone entering Morocco. Bourita added that it was, "the problem of France, which must deal with it."

This recent announcement by Macron will only strengthen far-right talking points in the republic, pulling the debate even further to the right. With both Marine le Pen and (potentially) Eric Zemmour in the presidential race, the claims that those wishing to emigrate to France are 'bad migrants', who seek to inflict violence through terror attacks, or take advantage of the French welfare state, which already has barely enough resources to respond to French nationals’ needs, are only set to intensify.

It does not matter to the French state that some may be simply travelling to take a short holiday, to study, or even sign a business deal – let alone that France might have both a historical and a contemporary hand in the causes of North African migration. No, the need to demonise an entire people is necessary in order to deliver Macron's second presidential term. To hell with the consequences.

Perspectives

Furthermore, The Associated Press reported that a senior (unnamed) official within the French government, said that the decision on visas being slashed is part of a strategy to deport those accused of extremism. In the summer, the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had announced strict action would be taken against those who are considered criminals, including those who are suspected of extremism. By making the association between decisions to control migration, with those on national security, the French state further fuels the fire of hatred. It reinforced the far-right racist narrative that migrants are terrorists who seek to destroy the peace of French society.

The government is also reliant on old colonial tropes which continue to dictate the deep inequalities within French society to this day. It is no coincidence that the three Muslim-majority countries in question are former colonies of France. The hangover remains of the barbaric, illiterate and uncivilised "Mujahid/Mujahida" who violently won independence for his/her nation. Today they are the migrants coming over to Europe to commit acts of that same tradition of terror.

The fact that the move was celebrated by National Rally leader Marine Le Pen because it aligns with the very policies she has called for, in her words, “[f]or a long, long, long, long time," is indication enough of how drastic the shift to the right on migration has been under Macron. "I am pleased that the president of the republic heard me," she stated, adding that she still finds it, "a bit late."

 "Macron's racist policies will not stop the journey being made by people who continue to be victims of the legacy of French colonial practices"

The fact that these plans by the French state are shared amidst news of a growing number of people attempting to escape hardship, repression and public health crises across North Africa, should dissipate any illusions about what this will mean in practice. Already just last week Algerian and Moroccan families were informed that eight bodies, of people who had attempted to reach Europe by sea, were washed up on the Spanish shore of Almería. Amongst the deceased was a 4-year-old child.

Macron's racist policies will not stop the journey being made by people who continue to be victims of the legacy of French colonial practices. Instead, it will further increase its illegality and thereby make the passage even more dangerous and fatal for so many. Moreover, it will further worsen the lives of those in France, by emboldening the far-right and increasing state repression. Just an electoral strategy? Not for those it targets.

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

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Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer, or of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.