Macron Proposes Repopulating Rural Areas with Migrants

Zellenberg is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.
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French president Emmanuel Macron has proposed creating a bill next year to reform France’s immigration and asylum policies, including a proposal to redistribute migrants to rural areas facing demographic decline.

The French president stated that a bill to reform the French immigration and asylum system would be tabled at the start of next year, arguing that the current policy was “absurd” and that it was both “inefficient and inhumane”.

“We have a policy that is both inefficient and inhumane, inefficient because we find ourselves with more foreigners in an irregular situation than many of our neighbours, inhumane because this pressure means that they are too often badly received,” President Macron said, the newspaper Le Figaro reports.

According to a report from November of last year, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin estimated the illegal alien population of France to be between 600,000 and 700,000 people.

“France has far fewer illegal immigrants than most of the major countries in Europe, starting with Great Britain: between 1 and 1.5 million against 600,000 to 700,000 for us,” he said, in an effort to downplay the issue.

President Macron, who made his remarks on Thursday, also called for a new system to redistribute migrants across France, specifically in “rural areas, which are losing population,” arguing that “the conditions for their reception will be much better than if we put them in areas that are already densely populated, with a concentration of massive economic and social problems.”

Similar policies have been suggested in other countries in recent years, including Germany, where in 2016 it was suggested that villages and small towns could help integrate asylum seekers better and the asylum seekers would help counter demographic decline.

A University of Milano-Bicocca study released last year also proposed using asylum seekers to repopulate rural areas and small towns in Italy, arguing that if the local governments limited migrant centres to no more than 25 people, there would be little economic cost.

Some in France, such as populist National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, have come out against Macron’s proposal, however.

“Emmanuel Macron wants to distribute foreigners in an irregular situation [illegal aliens] to rural areas. We believe that they should go back home. Unable to apply the law, he wants to change it. We will oppose this new madness!” Le Pen said on Twitter on Friday.

Rival populist Eric Zemmour had proposed €10,000 “birth grants” during the French presidential elections, to repopulate the countryside naturally — comparing his policy favourably to what he said was “€50,000 spent each year per unaccompanied illegal minor!”

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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