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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

Le Pen’s plan to legalise discrimination against foreigners in France – including dual nationals

Marine Le Pen will put a bill on immigration and national identity to a referendum within six months if she wins the election - and her plan would have a major impact on all foreigners living in France, even if they have taken French citizenship.

Le Pen's plan to legalise discrimination against foreigners in France - including dual nationals
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. (Photo: Christophe Simon / AFP)

This bill, “will modify a number of articles of our Constitution in order to integrate the migration issue into our supreme text but also to prevent supranational jurisdictions from forcing France to follow policies contrary to the will of the French people,” according to Le Pen’s manifesto.

If Le Pen gets in and if the law is passed, an estimated 3.5 million people in France suddenly would not have the same rights here as ‘French nationals’.

This includes people who have lived in France for decades and people who have become French citizens.

The plan for “national priority” sets up legal discrimination between French nationals and foreigners for jobs in the private sector, civil service, as well as access to social housing, healthcare and social benefits.

READ ALSO Macron v Le Pen: What are their policies for foreigners living in France?

Le Pen, a lawyer by profession, knows that the bill she proposes violates the French constitution, European conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1789.

That’s why she wants to put it to a referendum, which bypasses parliament and sidesteps the scrutiny of the Conseil Constitutionnel – France’s highest court on all matters related to the constitution, which would be highly likely to say that the move is unconstitutional.

Article one of the proposed bill – available here (pdf) – contains the following text: “The access of foreigners to any public or private employment, to the exercise of certain professions, economic or associative activities, professional or trade union representation functions, as well as to the benefit of solidarity benefits, is determined by law.

“The law sets the conditions and areas in which national priority may be applied, understood as the priority granted to nationals.”

Under article six: “The law may prohibit access to jobs in government agencies, public companies and legal entities, public enterprises and legal persons entrusted with a public service mission to persons who possess the nationality of another State.”

Le Pen’s immigration law would remove the right of foreign-born residents of France to work for – among others – La Poste, EDF, SNCF, businesses in social and health sectors and would also allow for “criminal or administrative sanctions to punish the actions of any person or legal entity who disregards the rules governing the entry, stay or work of foreigners in France, including through any assistance.”

As well as blocking access to certain professions, the bill – if passed – would deprive foreigners in France of family allowances and other benefits, deny them access to trade unions, make gaining French citizenship more difficult, do away with the droit du sol rule (which gives the right to citizenship of people born in France) and prevent many families from reuniting in France. 

It would also make access to healthcare more difficult.

Foreign nationals who want to settle in France under a Le Pen regime, they will have to prove that they are “holders of an insurance contract covering their health expenses” because, warns the RN candidate, “they cannot constitute a cost for the social protection system and for public finances”.

It’s not clear how long foreigners would be required to have private health insurance for and when/if they would be allowed to register within the French health system.

Le Pen’s chief of staff Renaud Labaye has insisted that, as a constitutional text, it was necessary to keep definitions as broad as possible to allow legal implements to then “restrict the scope of prohibitions”, including those who hold dual nationality.

At present certain jobs – including senior civil servant roles – are restricted to French nationals while some  public sector roles are restricted to EU citizens.

You can run for office on a local level – say town councillor or village mayor – if you are an EU citizen, but to run to become an MP, Senator or the president you must be French.

Crucially, however, there is no distinction between people who were born French and those who acquired French nationality later in life through family, marriage or residency – there have been two French presidential candidates (Eva Joly in 2012 and Anne Hidalgo in 2022) who were not French citizens from birth.  

In her 2012 and 2017 election campaigns, Le Pen proposed banning dual nationality, meaning that people could only become French citizens if they renounce the citizenship of their birth country. However in 2022 she has ditched that policy, to the reported surprise of many in her party. 

French citizenship rules are relatively generous, allowing citizenship after five years of residence – albeit with a ton of paperwork, a French language qualification and an average 18-month waiting time.

France granted citizenship to 86,000 people in 2020, and since the Brexit referendum many British long-term residents of France have taken French citizenship in order to hold onto their EU rights.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Member comments

  1. For a nation that fought so hard against the Apartheid regime and policies in South Africa, it is surprising that they seem to have taken so much from that rule book to apply in their own nation…I will be surprised (but not terribly so) if this comes to pass…

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ELECTIONS

Anti-Semitism fears stalk Jewish voters’ choice in France

Left-leaning Jewish associations and individual voters in France are struggling to make a choice ahead of snap parliamentary polls, with the far right expected to make massive gains and the hard left mired in allegations of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism fears stalk Jewish voters' choice in France

For Jewish collective Golem, “the far right is the main danger threatening Jews and French society,” its spokesman Lorenzo Leschi told AFP.

But “there is obviously a big anti-Semitism problem at La France Insoumise” (LFI), the hard-left outfit whose ambivalent response to Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel left it temporarily shunned by other left parties, he added.

Three major blocs are competing for votes in the two-round ballot on June 30th and July 7th: the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) of Marine Le Pen, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp, and the left Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) alliance, of which LFI is the largest member.

It was “a total disgrace” for France’s traditional left party of government, the much-weakened Parti Socialiste (PS), to ally with LFI, which “makes hatred of Jews its electoral stock in trade,” the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (Crif) charged.

Raphaël Glucksmann, who led the PS to an unexpectedly strong result at June 9th European elections, acknowledged to an anguished voter on a phone-in show last week that the alliance places “a very difficult choice before you” – while insisting the far-right “threat” was “infinitely too great” to renounce working with LFI.

LFI itself has always strenuously denied allegations of anti-Semitism, and the left alliance programme includes a condemnation of Hamas’s attacks and a plan to tackle Islamophobia and hatred of Jews.

The hard left’s campaign for June 9th European elections laid massive emphasis on stopping Israel’s campaign in Gaza, while its leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon claimed that France today suffered only “vestigial” anti-Semitism.

Such sorties angered many Jewish people in the face of a 300-percent year-on-year surge in anti-Semitic incidents in January-March in the wake of October 7th attack and Israel’s reprisal in Gaza.

This week, two teenagers from a Paris suburb were charged with the rape and abuse of a 12-year-old Jewish girl, acts apparently motivated by anti-Semitism.

Mélenchon – a leading candidate for prime minister should the left score a majority – posted on social media that he was “horrified” by the hate crime.

But the attack offered an opening for three-time presidential candidate Le Pen to blast “stigmatisation of Jews” by “the far left”.

Le Pen’s party was co-founded by a former member of the Nazi paramilitary Waffen-SS and long led by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made repeated anti-Semitic remarks in public and is a convicted Holocaust denier.

Since she took over, sidelining her father and renaming the outfit, she has attempted to win over potential Jewish voters, including with vocal support for Israel.

Historian Serge Klarsfeld, who has spent decades researching the Holocaust in German-occupied France, stunned the community on Saturday by saying he would vote for the RN over the left alliance if forced to choose in the July 7th run-off.

“My life rotates around defending Jewish memory, defending persecuted Jews, defending Israel,” Klarsfeld said.

“I’m faced with a far left that’s in the grip of LFI, which reeks of anti-Semitism and violent anti-Zionism,” he added – traits Klarsfeld believes the RN has “shed”.

“Serge Klarsfeld is… worsening confusion and outdoing everyone in erasing history, which is part of the RN’s ideological programme,” philosopher Michele Cohen-Halimi, writer Francis Cohen and actor Leopold von Verschuer wrote in a joint op-ed in daily Le Monde on Thursday.

The RN itself and its rightwing allies withdrew support for two candidates on Wednesday who had made anti-Semitic posts on social networks.

The election is ‘totally weird’ said comedian and activist against anti-Semitism Emmanuel Revah told AFP.

He is leaning towards voting for LFI because “the most important thing is beating the RN”.

“It’s very difficult, I’m rationalising by telling myself I’d rather vote for a candidate or a party that’s just a little rather than completely anti-Semitic,” he added.

“We don’t have the choice, we’re voting for any candidate against the RN,” said Brigitte Stora, author of the book “Anti-Semitism: an intimate murder”.

Once the parliamentary polls are over, though, “we have to take Mélenchon and his little lieutenants out of the game,” she added.

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