Correspondent in Paris
The arrival of Afghan immigrants or refugees begins to divide French society and the political class, running the risk of becoming a flammable problem.
In France (67 million French) some 45,000 Afghans officially reside, enjoying the corresponding papers and certificates of official residents. Other 55,000 Afghans would live scattered between the periphery of Paris and the large provincial cities, in “irregular” administrative conditions.
According to the United Nations High Commissariat, some 370,000 refugees of a wide range of nationalities officially reside in France, officially recognized. The actual number of refugees may be much higher, no doubt. According to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), the Afghan community is the most important and highly divided.
After his first telephone contacts with Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron was quick to announce possible “concertation” measures among European allies, stating that France was ready to “assume” its responsibilities to “protect” Afghans “in need of protection”, adding: “This will not prevent us from being very firm in the face of trafficking and networks that benefit from poverty and fear, irregular migratory trafficking ”.
Macron’s clinical precision opened a substantive national debate: How many Afghan refugees will France receive? Who and where can they reside?
According to a poll published by the conservative daily ‘Le Figaro’, 68% of the French are hostile to their towns and cities ‘committing’ themselves to receiving more Afghan refugees.
Mayors from the left, right, center and environmentalists have said they are ready to accept the arrival of Afghan refugees. But a vast majority of French mayors are silent sepulchral. The large parties of the left and right, the Government, treat the crisis with exceptional caution. While the spokesmen of President Macron insist on the European dimension of the problem.
The diversity and tensions between the Afghans of the diaspora, refugees in France, complicates the underlying problem. A great majority of the 45,000 officially accepted Afghans are perfectly integrated, most of them residing in multicultural neighborhoods. However, in the Afghan diaspora there are many sensitivities, which do not always facilitate dialogue.
Eight months before the next presidential campaign, the Afghan exodus runs the risk of becoming a debate of great depth, national and European.
Emmanuel Macron’s official line suggests a balanced policy between emergency humanitarian relief and stricter police restrictions.