A large majority of voters across every age bracket and region in France believe that the nation’s economy could not cope with a further influx of third world migrants, according to a YouGov survey.
A representative sample of more than 1,000 people were polled on the topic by Capital magazine after the president of the executive council of Corsica, Gilles Simeoni, offered to open the French island’s port to a migrant-packed NGO boat earlier this week after it was turned away by Italy.
While Corsica’s separatist Assembly members were keen to welcome the 629 mostly sub-Saharan migrants who would then be passed on to the mainland, citing the “universal values of Europe”, the idea was significantly less appealing to people in mainland France.
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A total of 72 per cent of people polled rejected the notion that France could absorb another wave of migration from third world nations, with the figure rising to a peak of 77 per cent amongst respondents aged 55 and over.
This sentiment was “widely shared across all regions and all age groups”, with even the education levels of those polled making little difference to the results, according to the business and economics magazine.
The belief that France would not be able to integrate a new migrant influx was most widely held amongst people without a university degree (82 per cent), but also enjoyed strong support from bachelor degree-holders (78 per cent) and respondents with graduate degrees (62 per cent).
Looking into why the French appeared to show such an emphatic rejection to the idea of opening the nation’s borders, Capital comments: “The image of migrants is largely associated with the shambles of the Calais jungle, or the equally embarrassing tent villages that are flourishing in the streets of Paris.
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“Our compatriots are faced with crowds of idle foreigners squatting on our sidewalks, who are hypothetically awaiting having their [immigration] status regularised by the government,” it says, explaining that in the minds of French voters, this situation “does not just sow the seeds of a clash of cultures, but also poses a major economic problem”.
While the rate of non-EU migration to France, which stood at 235,000 last year, is far from the highest in Europe — Britain issued just under 900,000 residence permits in 2016 and Germany 500,000 — Capital says that immigrants headed to France are much less likely to be educated.
Only a third of foreigners who have lived in France for more than five years is currently in a job, according to Capital, which notes that the unemployment rate for migrants is twice (18 per cent) that of the rest of the population (nine per cent), and jumps to almost three times that of the wider population (25 per cent) for non-Europeans.