Статья 'Французский декрет о воссоединении семей 1976 г. в контексте миграционного вопроса' - журнал 'Genesis: исторические исследования' - NotaBene.ru
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Genesis: Historical research
Reference:

French Decree on Family Reunification of 1976 in the context of the migration issue

Osipov Evgeny Aleksandrovich

PhD in History

Senior Scientific Associate, Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences

119334, Russia, Moscow, ul. Leninsky Prospekt 32a, 26

eaossipov@gmail.com
Other publications by this author
 

 

DOI:

10.25136/2409-868X.2023.11.68982

EDN:

CKAJPM

Received:

10-11-2023


Published:

17-11-2023


Abstract: The article analyzes the French migration policy in the 1960s and 1970s, when a large number of migrant workers from the Maghreb countries arrived in the country, with an emphasis on the significance of the decree on family reunification that came into force in 1976. In modern historiography, both French and Russian, there is an idea that this decree became one of the main mistakes of the presidency of Valery Giscard d'Estaing, symbolized the beginning of the policy of opening borders, attracting a large number of migrants from North Africa to the Fifth Republic and ultimately served as a starting point for the spread of Islam in France, the growth of religious radicalism and, in general, to the modern crisis of national and religious identity. The article is based on the latest achievements of French and Russian historiography. In particular, for the first time in Russian historiography, the results of the research of the French historian Muriel Cohen are introduced into scientific circulation, largely due to which the interpretation of the 1976 decree has changed in France. The article shows that in fact, the procedure for family reunification has not changed significantly since the end of World War II. However, depending on economic conditions and the degree of need for new migrants, law enforcement practice has changed. The French authorities liberally interpreted the issue of housing compliance with established standards in the 1960s during a period of shortage of workers, and vice versa, seriously approached the issuance of certificates of compliance with housing conditions in the 1970s. During the growth of unemployment and discontent of the French population with a large number of migrants from the Maghreb countries. Thus, the decree adopted in 1976 did not make significant adjustments to the migration policy of France and did not lead to an increase in the number of migrants in the country.


Keywords:

France, Decree, Fifth Republic, Family reunification, Migrants, Algeria, Maghreb, Identity, Islam, Crisis

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

 

In April 1976, one of the most controversial legislative acts was issued in France, which went down in history as the decree on family reunification ("regroupement familial"). Migrant workers who worked on a long-term basis in France were granted the right to transfer their families to the country.

The decree of 1976 is still regularly discussed in French society today. In popular historical memory, he is strongly associated with the seven-year presidency of Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, moreover, the right to family reunification is now considered one of the main mistakes of the president, who eventually did not allow him to be re-elected for a second term in 1981. In the works of professional historians and political scientists, the decree on family reunification is regularly presented as one of the main causes of the current crisis of national and religious identity in France, religious radicalization of young people and the growth of the terrorist threat. In other words, the decree of 1976 is perceived as an act on the opening of borders, which led to a noticeable increase in the number of migrants in the country.

Current French politicians also regularly comment on the events of 1976. Nicolas Sarkozy called the decree a "mistake", Marine Le Pen - an "immigration pump" [1]. Moreover, according to the results of a sociological survey conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), 55% of French people today support the abolition of the right to family reunification for immigrants [2].

However, in reality, the history of the adoption of the Decree of 1976 and the analysis of its consequences present a complex and contradictory picture. Most of what today constitutes the mass historical memory of the 1976 family reunification refers rather to historical myths and is clearly influenced by today, when the issues of the spread of Islam in France, the growing influence of extremist and fundamentalist movements, the failure of multiculturalism policy have become central in French political life. The revision of the events of 1976 began largely thanks to the works of the French historian Muriel Cohen [3, 4].

One of the most common myths concerns the abrupt change of course in the immigration policy of France in the mid-1970s, when during the work of one president (Valerie Giscard d'Estaing) and one government led by Jacques Chirac in France, first in 1974, the entry of migrant workers into the country and the reunification of foreign workers already working in the country with their families, and then in 1976, on the contrary, restrictions were lifted for both migrant workers and their families. The Decree on Family Reunification of 1976 is thus interpreted as an innovation in French legislation, which fundamentally changed the essence of France's migration policy.

In fact, back in the 1920s, the terms "family reunification" (at that time the term "reunion des familles" was used in French) and "moving families" ("des familles rejoignantes") appeared. The first tightening of the procedure for the reunification of migrant families occurred in the 1930s due to the deterioration of the economic situation and the growth of unemployment. Now the permission for the family to move to France was approved first by the mayor, and then at the department level. Additional restrictions of an ethnic, political and sanitary nature were also introduced for families considered "undesirable". Migrants had to obtain special work visas or special residence permits and be required to live in dormitories or settlements, usually built on the periphery of cities and towns [5. p. 142].

After the Second World War, French immigration policy became dramatically more active. The decree of December 24, 1945 introduces the term "family immigration", and in 1947-1948 about 20 circulars were issued supporting and regulating the procedure for the reunification of migrant workers with their families.

The demographic problems of the country after the Second World War were the main reason for the increase in the number of foreign workers in France. The French authorities directly supported "family immigration" in order to further assimilate migrants who came to the country and thus solve the demographic problem. In France, they even contrasted "labor migration", which was temporary, and "family migration", aimed at a long-term perspective. There was also a financial aspect to this policy. Support for the family reunification procedure led to the fact that recent migrants spent their earned money in France, rather than sending them to their loved ones in their home countries.

Given that "assimilation" in the 1950s was openly recognized as the goal of immigration policy, preference was given to migrants from European countries, primarily Italians. A representative office of the French National Bureau of Immigration was even opened in Milan. Italians enjoyed a significant number of benefits. Thus, moving a family to France cost only 1,500 francs (20% of the average monthly salary of a foreign worker in France at that time), the rest of the funds were paid from the budget [3, p. 191].

Immigrants from Spain, Poland, Yugoslavia and even Germany were also actively attracted to France, which, just a few years after the end of the war, was not always supported by the local population. Since 1951, all nationalities have already received the right to preferential family reunification.

Despite the comprehensive support from the state for "family immigration", in the 1950s not so many families moved to France, which was primarily due to the requirements for the quality of housing, which were difficult to fulfill. The French themselves were experiencing serious problems with the availability and quality of housing at that time. During the war, about 500 thousand houses were completely destroyed, about a million buildings were seriously damaged by bombing. The recovery was rather slow and by 1954 there were only 13.4 million residential premises in France, which was clearly not enough for a country with a population of 43 million people. In more than 40% of the premises there was no running water, sewerage was carried out only in 25% of apartments and houses [6].

Since the late 1950s - early 1960s, the procedure for family reunification has been simplified. There is an opportunity to come to the country on a tourist visa and go through the procedure of obtaining documents "after the fact", checking housing for compliance with the criteria was often either not carried out at all, or took place in a simplified format. As a result, during the 1960s, the number of families reunited in France increased. For example, in 1964, 47,300 family members of migrant workers moved to France, and in 1968 – 56,000 [3, p. 204].

In the 1970s, France's immigration policy again turned towards tightening and limiting the practice of family reunification and attracting new labor migrants to the country. The deterioration of the economic situation, the gradual end of the "glorious thirty years" (as the thirty post-war years are called in France) with their noticeable economic growth have called into question the necessity and expediency of finding a large number of migrants in the country, especially their families.

In addition to economic reasons, the ethnic aspect was also actively discussed. In the 1960s, European migrants were mostly replaced by representatives of the Maghreb countries, who experienced serious problems not only with assimilation, but also with integration into French society. And the new residential neighborhoods built in the late 1950s - 1960s in the suburbs of large cities gradually began to turn into "ghettos" with a complex socio–economic situation [7].

In 1972, a document appeared in the Office of Population and Migration, established in 1966 to regulate migration flows, which stated as a conclusion that "currently there is a situation in which family immigration from countries considered suitable for assimilation (the EEC countries and Spain) is decreasing, but vice versa, family immigration from the Maghreb and Turkey is growing" [3, p. 199]. From that moment on, family migration begins to be perceived in France as a problem, and not as a means of solving demographic and economic problems. It is no coincidence that in 1973, in the respectable magazine "Express", the journalist Francoise Giroux wrote on the occasion of the "oil shock": "If the French industry lacks energy, then the first unemployed will be workers from Algeria" [8]. And in 1974, a program with the provocative title "Algerians, for what?" was released on the central French television [9, p. 54].

In July 1974, already under President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, with a difference of only a few days, circulars were issued on the suspension of labor migration to France and family reunification procedures. The circulars did not apply to the EEC countries, Spain and Portugal. In August 1974, a special clarification was issued stating that the decisions of July 1974 apply to people from Algeria and other African countries.

Thus, the beginning of the presidential term of Valerie Giscard d'Estaing passed just under the slogan of tightening immigration policy and even a temporary ban on the admission of new migrant workers. However, such decisions came into obvious contradiction with the norms of European law, which guaranteed the "right of migrants to live with their families." France, being one of the leaders of the European integration process, could not ignore the existence of European conventions on human rights. Moreover, within France, various public organizations, primarily the "Immigrant Information and Support Group", actively fought for the lifting of the temporary ban on immigration and family reunification.

As a result, from January 1, 1975, family immigration was allowed for those who had housing. In June 1975, a circular was issued on the restoration of the general regime of family immigration that existed until 1974. Finally, on April 26, 1976, a famous decree was issued signed by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac (President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, contrary to popular belief, did not sign this decree) on family reunification, which entered into force on July 9, 1976.

The main innovation of the decree was that from now on, family reunification in full compliance with European law is recognized in France as a right, and not a simple administrative practice, to which the French authorities resorted from time to time.  

The author and initiator of the decree, the Secretary of State for Migrant Workers, Paul Diju, said that the publication of such a decree was a necessity and that from now on the family reunification procedure became "regulated, controlled and organized" in contrast to the "anarchy" of the previous period [10]. In fact, the text of the decree of 1976 prescribes almost the same procedure that existed before 1974, which was based on the question of compliance with the housing conditions of a migrant worker with the established norms.

In general, the notion existing in French and world historiography that the 1976 decree on the right to family reunification is an important step forward in the policy of opening borders, attracting a significant number of new migrants to the country and a reversal in French immigration policy is not true. The procedure for family reunification has not changed significantly since the end of World War II. But law enforcement practice changed depending on economic conditions and the degree of need for new migrants. Thus, the French authorities liberally interpreted the issue of housing compliance with established standards in the 1960s during a period of shortage of workers, and vice versa, seriously approached the issuance of certificates of compliance with housing conditions in the 1970s. during the growth of unemployment and discontent of the French population with a large number of migrants from the Maghreb countries.

Valerie Giscard d'Estaing's immigration policy was actually consistent, without sharp turns. The departure from the temporary ban on labor immigration and the principle of family reunification was caused by inconsistency with European legislation and the activity of various human rights organizations inside France, while the procedure for granting the right to family reunification was complicated, and not every migrant could count on permission.

Moreover, in December 1977, a decree was issued that family reunification is possible only for those who do not apply for jobs in France. This decree was soon canceled again due to non-compliance with the norms of European law, however, the very attempt to adopt it suggests that the policy of the French authorities has not really changed.

Valerie Giscard d'Estaing is often accused that his immigration policy has led to a significant increase in the number of Algerian families who have permanently settled in France, which again does not correspond to reality. Moreover, it was the Algerians who became the main victim of French immigration policy in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the end of the Franco-Algerian war and the signing of the Evian Agreements in 1962, Algerian migrants in France received a number of advantages. By law, they could obtain French citizenship in a simplified manner, they did not need a visa to enter the Fifth Republic. However, both the French and Algerian sides were interested in expanding labor migration to France, but not in family migration at all. The Algerian authorities supported the departure of their citizens to France to work, as this reduced the burden on the labor market, which was suffocating from high unemployment. France was also interested in workers. As for family migration, for Algeria, the reunification of Algerian families in France meant a reduction in remittances from France to Algeria, which formed an important part of the Algerian budget revenues. In France, family migration from Algeria was initially perceived as "undesirable" due to problems with assimilation.

As a result, despite the liberal legislation in relation to Algerian migrants, they experienced serious difficulties when they wanted to transfer their families to France. Difficulties were created again through difficult housing requirements. Also, Algerians did not have the opportunity to issue documents "after the fact" after entering France on a tourist visa, as did representatives of other countries and nationalities.

Additional restrictions were also introduced for Algerians. In 1968, the maximum number of Algerians who could immigrate to France every year (35 thousand people) was recorded. In 1971, the quota was reduced to 25 thousand people [11, p. 17].

Moreover, the 1976 decree on family reunification did not apply to Algerians, whose stay in France was still regulated by circulars from 1967 and 1969, that is, there were no significant changes for Algerian families during the presidency of Valery Giscard d'Estaing [4, p. 22]. Has something changed for representatives of other countries?

As mentioned above, the decree on family reunification of 1976, both in France and abroad, is often associated with a noticeable increase in the number of foreigners in the country, which eventually became one of the main causes of the modern crisis of national identity in the Fifth Republic. In fact, the 1976 decree did not have a serious impact on the number of migrants entering France.

According to official data of the National Bureau of Immigration, in 1974, when labor and family immigration was suspended for almost a year, 68,000 family members of foreign migrants arrived in France, in 1975 – 51,800 family members, in 1976 – 57,300, in 1978 – 40,100 family members [3, p. 204]. Thus, after the official recognition by the French authorities in 1976 of the right to family reunification, the number of family members of foreign migrants coming to the country did not increase, but decreased. It is also worth remembering that the right to register "after the fact" (after entry on a tourist visa) for family members was not canceled in 1974 and was a very common practice, which once again suggests that the significance of the decree of 1976 should not be overestimated.

In general, a significant part of the foreign labor force, including the "second generation", with the integration of which serious problems arose in French society, came to France before the presidency of Valerie Giscard d'Estaing. As for labor migrants, for example, in 1964 153,700 foreign workers came to the country to work, and in 1974 – 64,400, in 1978 – only 18,300 people. If we talk about family immigration, it gradually grew in the 1960s - early 1970s and peaked in 1972 (75,000 family members came to France that year) [3, p. 204] under President Georges Pompidou, subsequently the figures declined markedly, despite the right to family reunification since 1976

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The concept of the "Decline of Europe", proposed a little more than a hundred years ago by O. Spengler, today seems relevant not only to historians and cultural scientists: many socio-political and demographic processes in this region clearly show the deep crisis that engulfed the "heart of civilization" of the XIX - first half of the XX centuries. In this regard, the migration crisis that has hit France, Germany, and other European countries is indicative. These circumstances determine the relevance of the article submitted for review, the subject of which is the French decree of 1976 on family reunification. The author sets out to show the history of the adoption of the decree of 1976, to analyze its consequences, to evaluate it. The work is based on the principles of analysis and synthesis, reliability, objectivity, the methodological basis of the research is a systematic approach based on the consideration of the object as an integral complex of interrelated elements. The scientific novelty of the article lies in the very formulation of the topic: the author seeks to characterize the decree on family reunification of 1976 in the context of the migration issue in the Fifth Republic. The author aims to reveal the principles of "family migration", to show the migration policy of Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, as well as to determine the impact of the 1976 decree on the number of migrants entering France. Considering the bibliographic list of the article as a positive point, its versatility should be noted: in total, the list of references includes 11 different sources and studies. The undoubted advantage of the reviewed article is the involvement of foreign literature, including in French, which is determined by the very formulation of the topic. From the sources attracted by the author, we note the materials of the periodical press and Internet resources. From the studies used, we will point to the works of E.A. Osipova, V.N. Chernegi, M. Cohen, who focus on various aspects of the problems of migration policy of the Fifth Republic. Note that the bibliography is important both from a scientific and educational point of view: after reading the text of the article, readers can turn to other materials on its topic. In general, in our opinion, the integrated use of various sources and research contributed to the solution of the tasks facing the author. The style of writing the article can be attributed to a scientific one, at the same time understandable not only to specialists, but also to a wide readership, to everyone who is interested in both migration policy in European countries in general and French migration policy in particular. The appeal to the opponents is presented at the level of the collected information received by the author during the work on the topic of the article. The structure of the work is characterized by a certain logic and consistency, it can be distinguished by an introduction, the main part, and conclusion. At the beginning, the author defines the relevance of the topic, shows that today often "the decree of 1976 is perceived as an act on the opening of borders, which led to a noticeable increase in the number of migrants in the country." The work shows that "much of what today constitutes the mass historical memory of the 1976 family reunification refers rather to historical myths and is clearly influenced by today, when the issues of the spread of Islam in France, the growing influence of extremist and fundamentalist movements, the failure of multiculturalism policy have become central in French political life." The author draws attention to the fact that "the decree of 1976 did not have a serious impact on the number of migrants entering France." Contrary to current market assessments, the author conducts a balanced assessment of the steps of the French president. The main conclusion of the article is that "after the official recognition by the French authorities in 1976 of the right to family reunification, the number of family members of foreign migrants coming to the country did not increase, but decreased." The article submitted for review is devoted to an urgent topic, will arouse readers' interest, and its materials can be used both in training courses and as part of the formation of migration policy strategies. In general, in our opinion, the article can be recommended for publication in the journal Genesis: Historical Research.
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