The main left candidates: Anne Hidalgo (PS), Jean-Luc Mélenchon(Insoumis), Yannick Jadot (Verts) et Fabien Roussel (PC)
The main left candidates: Anne Hidalgo (PS), Jean-Luc Mélenchon(Insoumis), Yannick Jadot (Verts) et Fabien Roussel (PC)

All of the left-wing candidates in the French presidential election have detailed immigration policies in their campaign manifestos. Some proposals, such as the regularization of undocumented migrants and the end of bone testing for unaccompanied minors, are shared by all of the candidates. InfoMigrants explores where they differ.

Mass regularization of undocumented migrants

 What they say:

"Once foreigners are here, I refuse to mistreat them, we must treat people humanely," said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of La France Insoumise, during a face-to-face debate with far-right candidate Éric Zemmour on January 27, 2022.

"As I travel around the country, I am stopped by men who are undocumented [...] who have a permit to work, to be exploited. They have a pay slip and they pay contributions that they will never see. So we gain by immigration. They even pay taxes. And yet their employer refuses to fill out the CERFA that would allow them to obtain an official regularization status," said Fabien Roussel, Communist candidate, on February 2, 2022 speaking on the French television channel Public Sénat.

"Without immigrants, the construction, hospital, airport, hotel, cleaning, security, transport, car industry and food industry sectors could not function," reads the campaign manifesto for Nathalie Arthaud, candidate of socialist party Lutte Ouvrière.

Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist Party candidate, spoke of "workers essential to our economy" in her speech in Perpignan, in December 2021.

What they propose:

Mélenchon believes it is necessary to "regularize all undocumented workers and facilitate access to French nationality for foreigners legally present on the territory."

This is the same line of action proposed by both Roussel and Hidalgo. "We must regularize all undocumented workers," says Roussel. "Undocumented people who have been established in France for a long time, have a job and a home, must be regularized," agrees Hidalgo, the current mayor of Paris.

For their part, Arthaud and Philippe Poutou of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) both demand the regularization of everyone in the name of the right to "freedom of movement and settlement" of migrants.

Green candidate Yannick Jadot presents a more measured approach, speaking of a "broad" regularization of undocumented migrants, aiming, like the other left-wing candidates, at students, undocumented parents of schoolchildren, and people who can prove they have a job.

What you need to know:

Regularization through employment already exists in French law. An undocumented migrant can justify his or her request for a residence permit by presenting a work contract or a promise of employment to the prefecture in his or her region. They must also prove that they are a resident in France, are properly paid and have a good command of the French language. This is the result of the "Valls circular", a legally-binding document from 2012.

Read more: French Presidential Election 2022: Are the far-right candidates' immigration plans possible?

Remove Frontex border guards from Mediterranean Sea

What they say:

"We must stop the operations of Frontex whose missions and actions are not compatible with the respect of fundamental rights," said Mélenchon.

For Jadot, it is necessary "to get out of the current logic of Frontex which plays into the hands of the security industry, rendering the Mediterranean a weapon of mass destruction."

Hidalgo is more evasive and does not target Frontex directly but states in her manifesto: "I will fight against the irregular and lethal methods aimed at targetting illegal immigration".

What they propose:

Mélenchon and Jadot propose to replace Frontex with an agency whose primary mission will be rescue at sea.

Mélenchon speaks of creating a "European civilian rescue corps" at sea to avoid the thousands of drownings in the Mediterranean and to allow the maritime transport of migrants to England.

The two candidates also talk about "strengthening civilian rescue resources in the Mediterranean Sea to avoid thousands of drownings".

Hidalgo, Roussel, Arthaud and Poutou have not presented any specific proposals on this subject.

Is this feasible?

At the European Union's maritime borders, Frontex is not in charge of sea rescue, its primary role is to protect the borders and therefore the European coasts. On the other hand, Frontex has the obligation to assist any boat in distress as stipulated by international maritime law. In theory, therefore, the European agency, which has helicopters and ships at its disposal, should provide assistance to all boats in danger reported to EU member states. 

Read more: French Presidential Election 2022: 'Migration debate has become more radicalized'

Banning bone testing and detention of minors

What they say:

For Mélenchon, "unaccompanied minors must benefit, like all children, from fundamental rights: schooling, accommodation, social protection."

In Jadot's manifesto, he says: "We will welcome unaccompanied minors with dignity. France, a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, will protect these young people in the same way as others [...] We will guarantee that unaccompanied minors benefit from child protection measures until a final judicial decision is made and we will revise the methods used to assess their age."

What they propose:

Jadot, Mélenchon and Roussel all propose:

  • Banning the detention of under 18s in administrative detention centers (CRA).
  • Banning controverisal bone tests to determine the age of unaccompanied minors. These tests consist of an X-ray of the left wrist and hand. The X-ray is then compared to reference image plates to determine the age of a migrant. The method is morally and scientifically controversial.

More generally, the three candidates want to improve the care of structures for minors. Mélenchon, for example, wants to increase the reception and support capacity of establishments managed by the Aide Sociale à l'Enfance (ASE) so that the departments (French administrative regions) no longer have to resort to hotel accommodation for isolated minors.

Is this feasible? 

With regard to minors being locked up in the CRA that both Mélenchon and Jadot have spoken about, this is administrative (and not judicial) confinement. A number of NGOs have publicly condemned the fact that incarceration in CRAs is comparable to prison.

According to the most recent report of the Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté in 2021, the confinement of children is harmful. "Even if it is just for a short period of time, [this confinement] clearly has negative consequences on [the children]. Plunged into an anxiety-inducing, almost penitentiary-like environment, surrounded by walls, fences and barbed wire, they experience all parts of life in the CRA. They have to deal with appointments at the infirmary, violence, notification of decisions, transfer of handcuffed or restrained people... From the testimonies received, it appears that many of the children exposed to such treatment have subsequently suffered lasting anxiety and sleep, language or eating disorders.

As far as bone testing is concerned, it is up to each department to decide whether or not to carry it out. This is not only morally controversial, but can be Kafkaesque. A young person who is declared an adult in one department can be declared a minor - and therefore protected - in the neighboring department.

Read more: French Presidential Election 2022: The 'great replacement' is a xenophobic conspiracy theory

Allow asylum seekers to work and protect them

What they say:

"We must fight against discrimination and racism, against all forms of rejection [...] Speeches are no longer enough, we will put the will and the means of the State at the service of this objective," said Jadot in his campaign manifesto. "The fight against all forms of discrimination must be an absolute priority."

"France is the country of human rights, a land of asylum, with a universal cultural influence," said Mélenchon. In a tweet, below, he reminded his audience that those who migrate often have painful experiences. He said France should try and right the wrongs which cause people to have to leave their countries, but once they had arrived in France, they needed to be welcomed with humanity.

"The integration policy will be relaunched: it will be based on access to work as soon as the asylum application is submitted, on the organization of free French courses, for new arrivals as well as for immigrants already settled who wish to improve their mastery of our language," said Hidalgo.

What they propose:

These three candidates want asylum seekers to be allowed to work while waiting for their case to be reviewed.

All of the left-wing candidates also agree that family reunification must be better supported.

To better welcome migrants with dignity in France, Mélenchon proposes to set up reception centers to international standards with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Jadot wants to establish a "serious ministry of solidarity".

Roussel proposes closing down the CRAs. "Since foreigners must be subject to the same rules of law as any other person, the administrative detention centers (CRA), which are veritable places of detention, will be closed, as will the waiting areas in ports and airports that detain foreigners at the borders."

Is this feasible?

In terms of asylum seekers having access to the labor market, the measure already exists but the steps are tedious. An asylum seeker is not allowed to work for the first six months after arriving in France. After that, it is technically possible, but you still have to find an employer who is willing to complete all the necessary online procedures. The file must then be submitted to the prefecture of the department in which the asylum seeker resides. The prefecture then can either grant or refuse the work permit.

Regarding family reunification, France already allows families to reunite on French soil (only for spouses and children under the age of 18). However, the procedure takes time. Family reunification files have suffered heavy delays due to the global coronavirus pandemic. They are currently being processed in small batches and this has directly affected many Afghans who have sought to bring their families here following the arrival of the Taliban in power in August 2021.

Renegotiating major migration agreements

Which ones are they talking about:

  • Le Touquet agreement: an agreement reached between the British and French governments on the subject of border controls, which was signed in 2003 and came into force in 2004. It defines the border between France and the UK. The French border is currently in Calais.
  • Dublin regulation: a set of rules governing European migration policy. They delegate responsibility for examining a refugee's asylum application to the first country through which he or she entered the European Union.

Both Mélenchon and Jadot strongly denounce the current security migration policy where the foreigner is considered a potential danger.

What they say:

Jadot says, France must "break with the Dublin regulation, which is disastrous in human and financial terms, and [with] sorting at the borders."

Mélenchon agrees: "We must break with the European directives, especially the Dublin regulation, and repeal the successive laws that have had the objective of restricting the right to asylum in France."

Hidalgo, the socialist candidate, is on the same page. "France must be successful in a complete reformation of the Dublin system to guarantee efficient procedures and the dignified reception of people."

What they propose:

Mélenchon proposes renegotiating the Le Touquet agreement with the United Kingdom and creating a joint asylum office in Calais.

Jadot wants to set up a European "solidarity mechanism" ensuring that member states share responsibility for asylum via better relocation.

Hidalgo proposes a major overhaul of the Dublin system, which would be based on "solidarity between Member States, according to their capacities, particularly in terms of reception, rather than on the arbitrary rule that the first country of entry into the EU is the country responsible for processing asylum applications. If necessary and to avoid blockages, enhanced cooperation will be organized between Member States that are willing and determined to find a common solution".

Is this feasible?

As far as "solidarity mechanisms" are concerned, the EU is already trying to put in place a common migration policy for all Member States and to distribute fairly the thousands of asylum seekers who are pouring into Italy and Greece.

But since 2015, it is clear that not all EU countries – led by Poland, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic – have followed the relocation policy demanded by Brussels. 

The original version in French was published on March 14, 2022.


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