A. Executive Summary
France is a semi-presidential republic. It is one of the founding members of the European Union. Since the 19th century, the country has been a prominent destination for immigrants, mainly coming from Northern Africa and Southern Europe. As of 2021, the foreign population living in France amounted to 5.2 million. Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, Italy, Turkey, and Spain were their most common countries of origin.
It is estimated that the French diaspora amounts to more than 2.5 million. The leading destination countries for emigration in 2020 were Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Germany. Returnees over 60 years old are increasingly moving to European and African countries looking for pleasant living environments and greater purchasing power. Others are elderly expatriates returning to their country of origin.
France also hosts many refugees and asylum seekers fleeing their countries. In 2021 they mainly came from Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, Guinea, and Turkey. Most recent data have shown the increasing influx of asylum seekers arriving from Ukraine due to the Russian conflict. In recent years, the government has passed many regulations and laws to improve the process of asylum applications and reduce the duration of administrative detentions. Furthermore, in 2021, 9,075 internal displacements occurred in France due to ten climatic disasters.
In 2020, the most important sectors of France’s economy were public administration, defence, education, human health, and social work activities (23.4%), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (16.4%), professional, scientific and technical activities, administrative and support service activities (14.2%). Despite the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, France’s economy rebounded quickly, especially thanks to its vast vaccination campaign and strong public support measures.
In 2021, France’s GDP amounted to US$ 2,957,879,760 and it seems to have grown by 2.6% in 2022 due to a substantial carry-over effect from 2021. Energy and commodity prices have increased the inflation rate by 7% in the fourth quarter of 2022. As for foreign direct investment, it represented 3% of France’s GDP in 2021, compared to 0.6% in the previous year.
B. Country Profile
I. Basic Information
France is a north-western European country bordering the English Channel to the northwest, Belgium and Luxembourg to the northeast, Germany and Switzerland to the east, Italy, Monaco, and the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast, Spain and Andorra to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. There are five major mountain ranges: the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Jura, the Vosges, and the Massif Central. It is administratively divided into 13 metropolitan regions, two overseas regions, and three overseas groups, with 101 departments (96 metropolitans and five overseas).
Its territory covers an area of 545,630 sq. km, and its population amounts to 68,042,591. Paris is the capital and largest city. French is the official language, however over 50 regional languages are commonly spoken in the ultramarine territories. Catholic religion is the most practised, followed by Islam. Other religious groups include Jews, Protestants, and Buddhists. France is a multicultural nation where the major ethnic groups are Celtic and Latin, followed by Slavic, Teutonic, North African (Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian), Indochinese, and Basque minorities.
II. International and Internal Migration
According to official statistics released in October 2022, as of 2021 there were seven million immigrants living in France, encompassing 10.3% of the country’s total population. 2.5 million immigrants (36.0%) have already obtained French nationality since arriving in the country. Therefore, as of 2021, the foreign population in France amounted to 5.2 million people (7.7% of the population): 4.5 million are migrants who have not acquired French nationality, plus 0.8 million people born in France of foreign nationality. Most immigrants living in France that year came from either Africa (47.5%) or Europe (33.1%). Their main countries of origin were Algeria (12.7%), Morocco (12%), Portugal (8.6%), Tunisia (4.5%), Italy (4.1%), Turkey (3.6%), and Spain (3.5%).
Migrants in France work primarily in low-skilled, physically demanding jobs in the industry, catering, and construction sectors, despite government efforts to attract foreign high-skilled profiles such as cultural and scientific professionals. As of 2021, many immigrants were employed as domestic workers (38.8% of migrants), security guards (28.4%), unskilled and skilled labourers (27% and 24.8% of migrants, respectively), and hotel employees (22%). Foreigners were also more affected by unemployment than the native-born French (15.3% compared to 8.3% of nationals); they were more likely to be self-employed, and also at a higher risk of facing job precariousness.
Some of the issues and abusive situations migrants face in France include racist attitudes, housing and employment discrimination, and racially discriminatory treatment by police officers. Regarding access to education, migrants in France were historically not taken into account, but decades of government efforts have created a more complex scenario. Migrants are still over-represented among people with only primary education and under-represented among those attaining secondary and non-university post-secondary degrees. However, they are also over-represented among those attaining university-level degrees, which shows considerable inequalities within the migrant community.
Internal migration in France mostly involves short distances. Only one-sixth of internal migrants change regions (and another sixth change departments within the same region). A significant number of inter-regional migrants move out especially from Île-de-France (an urbanised region, by far the most populated, including Paris). The net migration in Île-de-France is negative. Every year, important metropolitan areas attract many people for professional reasons, but many more people are leaving the cities (mostly young couples and singles) looking for larger and more affordable housing. These internal migrants mostly relocate in second-tier cities in less populated regions, including some areas in the North that traditionally did not attract many people: Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Normandy, Centre-Val de Loire, Brittany.
III. Emigration and Skilled Migration
The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs provides statistics about the number of French nationals registered abroad by the French network of consulates and embassies. The main destination countries registered in 2020 were Switzerland (with 176,425 emigrants), the United States (148,468), the United Kingdom (144,084), Belgium (109,885), and Germany (101,048). The total number of emigrants recorded in 2020 were 1,685,638, but it is estimated that the French diaspora (also counting non-registered emigrants) accounts for more than 2.5 million.
The main pull factors for emigration are proximity, historical links (with countries like Morocco, Algeria, Israel, and Canada), and economic opportunities (China and the United States). One-third of the emigrant population has a high educational level (equivalent to French Bac+3). In 2019, 58% of the French living abroad earned a higher diploma. They are mainly commercial, administrative, financial executives, engineers, health and educational professionals, computer science graduates, and researchers.
Female migrants usually move to European Member States and less frequently to Asia or Oceania (45% of female migrants). Most of them are between 25 and 60 years old (50.5%), and 34.3% are under 25. Nevertheless, more and more retirees over 60 are now moving abroad. Most live in Europe (52.4%), while 41.5% reside in Africa, 3.1% in America, 2.6% in Asia, and 0.3% in Oceania. Algeria remains the leading host country, with nearly 440,000 retirees. The primary motivations for elderly expatriates are the return to their country of origin, the search for a pleasant living environment, compensation for the loss of purchasing power, and even the pursuit of a professional career.
Regarding remittances, in 2021, they represented 1.1% of France’s GDP. The government offers information related to remittance requirements, specifying a customs declaration if more than 10,000 euros want to be physically sent to France.
IV. Forced Migrants (Internally Displaced Persons, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Climate Displaced Persons)
Since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the circulation of asylum seekers and the activity of the administrations in charge of registering and examining applications in France. In 2021, 104,381 initial applications were registered at the single window for asylum seekers (GUDA), 28% more than in 2020. In the same year, the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) registered 103,164 applications, showing a 7% increase compared to the previous year. The main countries of origin of asylum seekers were Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, Guinea, and Turkey.
Most recent data from 2022 indicates that 613,272 persons with refugee status and 64,034 asylum seekers were registered in France. They mainly came from Ukraine (14%), Afghanistan (9%), Syria (6%), Sri Lanka (5%), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5%). These people fled wars, civil unrest, and high poverty levels in their countries of origin. France is considered one of the main asylum-receiving countries in Europe. Since 2008, it has committed to receiving an annual quota of refugees. The country hosts around 5,000 new refugees annually and is among the top five resettlement countries. Moreover, in 2022 it facilitated the local integration and naturalisation of 1,757 refugees.
The country’s legislation recognises asylum and refugee status, and the government has a system in place to protect refugees. The Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) provides asylum application forms in different languages, which can be submitted on French territory or at a French border crossing point. Asylum seekers outside the country can apply for a special asylum visa at a French embassy or consulate. After they arrive in France, the visa holder must follow the same procedure as other asylum seekers living in the country. The temporary visa allows them to work while their application is being processed and assessed. To improve the processing of asylum applications, in 2018, the French Parliament passed a law aimed at reducing the average time to process asylum applications to six months and shortening to 90 days the maximum duration of administrative detention, and to 24 hours the duration to verify a person’s right to stay. Likewise, the law extended to four months the duration of residence permits for persons with subsidiary protection and stateless refugees. It enabled access to housing for foreigners who could not apply for asylum. By law, unaccompanied migrant children are placed in the care of the child protection system.
France grants asylum seekers the right to basic assistance, including housing, food, and legal, medical, and psychosocial assistance. The French office for immigration and integration determines the reception conditions according to the asylum seeker’s situation. This office is also responsible for individually identifying situations of vulnerability. In the case of persons whose refugee status has been recognised by the country, they have the right to stay in France for ten years, and after this time, they may apply for permanent residence. They also have the right to a travel document (valid for all countries except the country of their nationality or habitual residence), access to the same social security benefits as French citizens, permission to work in the country, and apply for family reunification. However, refugees encounter many difficulties in the French labour market: they have limited access to it, and on many occasions face precarious conditions and low wages.
In 2021, 9,075 internal displacements were caused by ten climatic disasters related to dry mass movement, floods, storms, and wildfires.
V. Victims of Human Trafficking
In 2021, the Ministry of Interior surveyed 44 associations that gave support to more than 2,800 victims of human trafficking that year. Among those victims, 235 of them were exploited abroad, and 2,637 were in France, or at least partially. Most of them were victims of sexual exploitation (74%), 18% were involved in forced labour, 6% in criminal activities, 1% in begging, and 1% in other forms of exploitation. Victims of domestic servitude were usually recruited through connections with close people, while victims of sexual exploitation were recruited through criminal networks. Regarding unaccompanied minors, 84% of them were victims of forced criminality. Social media were increasingly being used for the recruitment and control of victims.
The government established the new National Action Plan for 2019-2022. It is a party to multiple international conventions related to trafficking and cooperates with the United Nations and the European Union to eliminate human trafficking.
France is Tier 1 in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report. Although the government did not comprehensively disaggregate law enforcement data, it provided information from all French departments and territories. In 2020 it conducted 127 investigations related to human trafficking and dismantled 53 networks promoting human trafficking and commercial sex crimes, which led to the arrests of 875 suspects. Moreover, the government prosecuted 244 traffickers and convicted 66 traffickers. The Covid-19 pandemic decreased officials’ capacity to investigate and prosecute traffickers, shut down courts for two months, and delayed all cases. In 2021, France collaborated with international organisations, including INTERPOL, EUROPOL, and many other countries, which resulted in the identification of at least 697 victims and 143 trafficking suspects in France and cooperating countries.
In 2020, police identified 197 trafficking victims and 786 victims of commercial sex exploitation (some of whom may have been victims of sex trafficking). 493 of them were French, and 217 were children. Victims can access shelter and legal, medical, and psychological services in France (although this network does not cover French overseas departments). In 2020, government-funded NGOs assisted 260 trafficking victims, including shelter for 48 victims and nine child dependents. The government opened a new children’s shelter to accommodate trafficking victims and adopted a national action plan for children exploited in commercial sex. It also formed a unit of eight investigators expert in the field of exploitation of children through commercial sex. In 2021, the government continued training sessions for magistrates, prosecutors, police, social workers, and investigators. In early 2022, it focused awareness-raising efforts on refugees fleeing Ukraine by launching a website, dedicating emergency shelters for refugees, and registering families hosting Ukrainian refugees. It also carried out awareness campaigns in airports and through tourism operators to reduce demands for child sex tourism.
Despite all of these efforts, the government continued to lack a national victim identification and referral mechanism to ensure proactive referral to care and legal safeguards to protect victims from prosecution for unlawful acts traffickers forced them to commit. In 2021 it did not report awarding compensation or restitution to any victim. It kept arresting and prosecuting child victims of forced begging and forced criminality, and deporting undocumented migrants from Mayotte’s Island.
VI. National Legal Framework
The possibility of acquiring French nationality, one of the first principles asserted by the Droit du sol (granting French nationality automatically to the descendants of immigrants if they are born in France), has been reduced in cases of marriage or seniority. The main law, which regulates the immigration of non-EU citizens in France, is the Code of Entry and Stay of Foreigners and Asylum. The 2018 Law on Immigration, Asylum, and Integration aimed, among other things, to shorten the response time for asylum applications and the time foreigners are allowed to be in the country before submitting their applications.
The law related to foreigners’ rights in France, promulgated on March 7, 2016, ratifies a major reception and integration policy reform if foreigners are allowed for the first time to reside in France, including refugees. They agree to sign a Republican Integration Contract (CIR) with the State by committing to undergoing a specific training during a personal and personalised interview with an OFII agent. The 1958 French Constitution also grants refugee status. France is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
Article 225-4 of the Criminal Code criminalises sex trafficking and labour trafficking, and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine. France is a signatory of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
France signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
France signed and ratified the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, but it is not a party to three of the core statelessness instruments: the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (signed but not ratified), the European Convention on Nationality (signed but not ratified), and the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession (neither signed nor ratified).
VII. Main Actors
The Directorate General for Foreign Nationals in France (DGEF) is responsible, within the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Territories, for the policy of immigration, asylum, integration, and access to French nationality. DGEF is competent to manage visa regulations and general rules related to the entry, residence, and work of foreign nationals in France, counteracting irregular immigration, illegal work, document fraud, asylum, reception and support for newcomers, and access to French citizenship.
DGEF relies on two public institutions: the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA), responsible for the application of French texts as well as European and international conventions on the recognition of refugee status, stateless status and the admission to subsidiary protection; the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII), handling the reception and support of foreign nationals authorised to reside permanently in France.
OFII receives applications for family reunification, and it controls the sheltering and resources of the applicant. OFII is also tasked with the implementation of assistance of foreigners in irregular situations who wish to return to their country. It is present at the reception of single desks for asylum seekers, assesses the vulnerability of applicants, manages the housing network, and pays the allowance depending on the profile. OFII also manages the first reception centres for asylum seekers and coordinates the National Reception Process for asylum seekers and refugees. It also manages part of the applicants’ entries in the Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers and Temporary Accommodation Centres for Refugees.
Several bodies investigate trafficking crimes. The Ministry of Interior’s Central Office for the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings is responsible for cases of sex trafficking, while the Central Office for Combating Illegal Labour and the Central Office for the Suppression of Irregular Migration and the Employment of Irregular Migrants handle labour trafficking cases. The Inter-Ministerial Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Human Trafficking continue coordinating government-wide efforts on anti-trafficking and preventing violence against women.
In France, UNHCR advises international protection institutions and relevant actors on refugee law and legislative processes related to international protection and statelessness, access to rights and reception conditions for asylum seekers. In addition, UNHCR informs refugees, applicants for international protection and stateless persons of their rights and obligations, and encourages initiatives for the participation of refugees. It raises public awareness and mobilisation through events with partners, cultural, political, sports and other private sector organisations to create a suitable environment for the reception and integration of refugees.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) France plays a pivotal role in resettlement projects for refugees in the country, implemented since 2008 in cooperation with multiple partners at national and international levels. As part of its participation in the national resettlement programme, IOM France assists selected refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Niger, Chad, Egypt, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and various third countries under the 2008 agreement between France and UNHCR. IOM France provides long-term assistance to the relocation program for asylum seekers coming from Greece, Italy, and Malta and relocating to France. This intra-community solidarity tool allows asylum seekers needing international protection to be transferred safely and legally from EU Member States. IOM France assists beneficiaries of various IOM programs, including family reunification, refugee resettlement and voluntary return, during their transit through the airport of Paris-CDG. It also supports British nationals who may encounter difficulties in completing their application for a residence permit and thus maintain their right to stay in France now that the UK has left the European Union.
IOM France regularly participates in national and transnational projects to raise awareness among official authorities and the public regarding human trafficking. Training for front-line professionals is organised to facilitate the detection and protection of victims of trafficking. It has also developed a Transnational Referral Mechanism intended to improve the professionals’ response to the needs of victims of human trafficking in the context of voluntary return.
The role of UNICEF in France is to contribute, through its expertise and advocacy, to developing public policies to defend and promote children’s rights. To this aim, UNICEF France, in 2022, focused on protecting unaccompanied minors. The law on the protection of children upholds several advances for minors who are under the care of the children’s social assistance, linked to the advocacy of UNICEF France: the strict prohibition of the use of hotel accommodation (including in the context of emergency reception and for the shelter of unaccompanied minors), the inclusion in the law of the establishment of a period of respite prior to the assessment of the minority and isolation for unaccompanied minors.
NGOs and Other Organisations
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is an NGO that deals with health-related needs of vulnerable populations worldwide. They run an open-day centre for migrant minors in Paris providing food, shelter, and medical services. They also operate a mobile clinic in northern Paris that migrants benefit from. They give non-medical support to foreigners, informing them about their rights and helping them in administrative processes.
CIMADE is an NGO with a long tradition of supporting migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in France. It has a wide and ambitious range of activities, like supporting the exercise of the right to residence (giving information and helping in interactions with institutions), running reception centres for migrants all over France, working with especially vulnerable groups of migrants such as unaccompanied minors or imprisoned people, and giving integral support to asylum seeking processes.
The Bureau d’accueil et d’accompagnement des migrants (BAAM) is another NGO that supports asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants or workers. It was created in 2015 by a network of individuals united in solidarity with 900 refugees expelled from a Paris high school where they took shelter. They offer free French classes in Paris, assist people asking for asylum in France, organise cultural and sports encounters for migrants, and help in processes such as accessing health services or finding a job.
Many other NGOs aim at providing migrants with direct support like hot meals, blankets, clothing, and sleeping bags. The Solidarité migrants Wilson collective and Utopia56 do so in Paris, as well as L’Auberge des migrants and Salam in the northern region of Calais. British NGOs like Safe passage and Care4Calais are active there too. Furthermore, most of these agencies offer legal information and help with administrative processes.
The Catholic Church
The French Bishops’ Conference has an office for the Service National Mission et Migrations (SNMM), which is under the responsibility of the Bishops’ Commission for the Universal Mission of the Church (CEMUE). Its task is to enhance and promote the theological and pastoral reflection of the Church’s missionary activity. To this purpose, it stresses the importance of meeting with migrants and encourages the lay community to welcome migrants and refugees. The National Service for the Universal Mission of the Church (SNMUE) and the National Service for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (SNPMPI) have launched the SNMUE-SNPMPI joint project to strengthen the bridges between the different networks and deal with common problems by adopting a multidisciplinary approach.
The French Church is also actively involved in the prevention and fight against the exploitation and trafficking of human beings in all its forms. To this end, it has published the document “Exploitation and Trafficking in Human Beings”. It denounces this phenomenon by providing testimonies of victims and actors who have worked with victims, identifies situations of vulnerability, and proposes lines of action to eradicate it.
Caritas France (Secours Catholique) works with the immigrant population to defend their rights and promote their integration into French society. This organisation takes on a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, it provides the necessary information to the migrant and refugee population on available institutional policies and practices through meetings and collective awareness-raising actions. Secondly, it advocates for migrants’ rights and basic needs. Depending on the local context, they have opened reception centres, organised accommodation solutions, or provided legal support. The Centre for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (CEDRE), which welcomes about 5,000 people a year in Paris, provides information to the refugee population and food, and serves as a collection point for correspondence. Thirdly, Secours Catholique supports foreigners, whose administrative status is regular and have the legal right to work, and promotes entrepreneurship.
The Order of Malta in France works with the most vulnerable population through various initiatives related to first aid, solidarity, and the health sector. The organisation supports many programmes throughout the country, including Maison de Familles de Rouen in the opening of the establishment called ‘Families en Seine.’ This centre aims to offer families in Rouen a place of welcome and personal interaction, where everyone can share their experience and find support. The Order of Malta in France also supports the SOS future Mothers Project, particularly in Burgundy-Franche-Comté. This project supports mothers living in precarious situations by providing them with material aid like milk, nappies, clothes, baby bedding, and necessary accessories for the care of children. Finally, the Order of Malta has set up the Solidarity Food Truck Project, which enables people in precarious situations to benefit from quality food.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) fights against the isolation and social exclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in France. This organisation focuses on hospitality and temporary accommodation programmes, comprehensive support, cultural and professional integration, and French language classes.
The Sant’Egidio organisation has launched a humanitarian corridor in collaboration with French authorities on behalf of Lebanon’s most vulnerable refugees. The protocol includes identifying, welcoming, integrating, and assisting inclusion in France.
Collective Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings, created by Secours Catholique, brings together 28 French associations to coordinate the fight against human trafficking. Their first objective is to raise public awareness and encourage French, European, and international decision-makers to make a firm commitment to enhance the prevention and fight of this crime. Secondly, it prevents communities from becoming vulnerable to human trafficking. They also support victims with social, legal, housing, healthcare, and employment services.
Finally, RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking against Trafficking and Exploitation) raises awareness against human trafficking using modern technology and communication, networking and sharing resources, knowledge, and skills with other associations. It belongs to the international network ‘Talitha Kum’, which coordinates and strengthens anti-trafficking activities promoted by dedicated women.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Conference ‘Saint Joseph-Sainte Rosalie’ leads a local network in Paris. It aims to coordinate the reception of asylum-seeking migrants and refugees hosting them in the La Mie de Pain Refuge by providing food, French language classes, cultural outings and, above all, accommodation for those who have obtained refugee status and are in the process of integration.
The Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) supports and runs a variety of intercultural ministries thanks to their 12 chaplaincies spread throughout the country, in Grenoble, Hayange, Herserange, Marseille, Paris, Pierrelaye, St Etienne, St Ouen L’Aumône, and Villeurbanne.
The Salesians of Don Bosco in France have the Centre for Rehabilitation and Vocational Training (CRFO), the Don Bosco Institute of Gradignan, one of the institutions of the Don Bosco Network for social action that welcomes migrant minors from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea. In this centre, professional training is provided to help them integrate into the labour market.