Like iron filings to a magnet, controversy gravitates effortlessly to Marine Le Pen. The outspoken leader of France’s National Front (FN) is currently awaiting trial on charges of inciting hatred after she compared Muslims praying in streets to a Nazi occupation. The case comes a full five years after she allegedly uttered the words.
As she prepares for her day in court, Le Pen is also acting to build her right-wing support base in a country that is being convulsed, like the rest of Europe, by the biggest surge in migrant numbers since the end of World War II.
Just last month Le Pen spoke at a large rally in Paris and warned of the consequences of open-ended migration from the Middle East and what it will mean not just for the future of France but all of Europe.
“Without any action, this migratory influx will be like the barbarian invasion of the 4th century, and the consequences will be the same,” Le Pen said. “We must immediately stop this madness to safeguard our social pact, freedom and identity.
“Sarkozy opened the door, and Hollande and [Prime Minister Manuel] Valls have taken them off the hinges,” continued the 47-year old politician. “The leaders offer to host migrants, without even asking their inhabitants, the same leaders who destroyed Libya, and continue to destabilise Syria.”
The FN leader’s message is simple, to the point and being listened to. She is anti-EU, anti-Schengen open borders and anti-meddling bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg.
There is no shortage of French people who agree with those sentiments. They look around their country today and barely recognise it; their fellow citizens, the languages they speak and the religions they follow are all seemingly foreign to a proud culture of independent-minded people who fought two world wars to stand alone against the forces of tyranny.
Now they feel invaded from without.
As reported by Breitbart London, President Francois Hollande last month reversed his previous stance against refugee quotas and said that France would take in 24,000 refugees in the next two years. Many will be housed in rural areas, such as Arpajon, where accommodation is easier to come by.
The new arrivals add to a country that is already opening its doors wider and wider. Here are a few statistics courtesy of Eurostat:
- France gave out 13 per cent more visas in 2014 than in 2013;
- Of the 2.8 million visas granted, 2.6 million were short stay, mainly to tourists;
- Long-stay visas were up 6.0 per cent to 182,549, although their number fell in 2011 and 2012;
- 82,671 long-stay visas were granted to students and interns, 48,631 for to families of people already in France;
- Five million people apply for residency papers to stay every year – 2.5 million people currently have them;
- Since 2011 France has accepted 7,000 of the estimated four million Syrian refugees;
- In 2014 64,811 people have applied for asylum in France – compared to 47,686 in 2009 – and 20 per cent were accepted – compared to 10,401 in 2009;
- The lower house of parliament passed a law to speed up immigration and deportation procedures on 29 July.
Le Pen’s rhetoric against this flow resonates with voters. She knows the numbers will grow, not lessen, as European Council President Donald Tusk warns of three million Syrians preparing to cross the Mediterranean for Europe.
The FN would have swept local elections in France’s northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais were they held as recently as three weeks ago. The outspoken Eurosceptic enjoyed almost 40 per cent support among voters in an opinion poll carried out in a region that has been hit hard by unemployment and found itself at the centre of the refugee crisis.
The FN leader made her original ‘Nazi occupation’ comments in a speech during a party rally in Lyon in 2010. Asked two weeks ago about being summoned to appear in court on 20 October, Le Pen told Agence France-Presse: “Of course, I’m not going to miss such an occasion.”
Later, she told Europe1 it was “scandalous to be prosecuted for having a political opinion in the country of freedom of expression”.
Now a court will decide whether she is right or not.