The number of people given French citizenship this year is likely to soar 45 per cent from 2015’s figure, with the vast majority of “new French” from North Africa. The spike follows a concerted push by the ruling Socialist Party to naturalise 100,000 people a year.
In an investigative report, monthly journal Causeur notes that the sharp uptick in naturalisations far exceeds previous patterns and asks whether agencies’ rush to grant citizenship to more “new French” is a coincidence against the backdrop of presidential elections in 2017.
In 2012, as Interior Minister, the now-Prime Minister Manuel Valls took a wrecking ball to the previous centre-right government’s naturalisation criteria, abolishing the multiple choice tests on French culture and values and the need for candidates to be employed on a permanent contract.
Branding the previous government’s policies on naturalisation the result of a “France that doubts, looks at the world with suspicion”, Valls declared that he wanted to see 100,000 people a year given French citizenship. The Socialist politician also said he hoped a further 20,000 spouses of French citizens would be naturalised each year through marriage.
Causeur reports that it is very much an “open secret” that in recent months the department which manages accession to French nationality has been “a machine that is naturalising in full swing”.
Reportedly, naturalisations have risen at a rate far higher than in recent years. Between 2013 and 2015 the rate at which the decree was given increased by 17 per cent, whilst it had halved between 2010 and 2012 before Valls took office and modified the rules.
In 2015 the department had more than met the Prime Minister’s goal of 100,000, naturalising 113,603 people. Causeur discovered that the number of “new French” this year could exceed last year’s total by 45 per cent.
The majority of people who are being granted citizenship are not European, accounting for 78 per cent of the total. Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians top the list of “new French”, followed by Turks and Senegalese people.
Causeur notes that applications for citizenship are received by the sub-directorate of access to French nationality of the Interior Ministry, where they are approved or refused, and then sent on to the central record keeping service which realises the process.
The journal found that this service “has a stock of 10,000 pending cases which have already been accepted by the Interior Ministry”, something which Causeur states is “extremely rare”.
With the presidential election set for next year, polls have for months shown president François Hollande losing to all likely adversaries. According to a 2012 survey of 10,000 voters, 93 per cent of Muslims in France voted for the Socialist Party president, who is the most unpopular head of France in modern history.
In his successful presidential campaign, Hollande promised an amnesty to all of the estimated 400,000 Muslims illegally in France.
Now a huge, and growing, electoral bloc, commentators have observed that Muslims in France decided the election. An estimated 1.7 million of them voted for Hollande in 2012, who beat incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy by just 1.1 million votes.