The Forgotten misery of migrant workers in France

The Forgotten misery of migrant workers in France

LONDON - ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies is alarmed by the French government’s newly proposed immigration regulations that work to harmfully undermine the rights of hundreds of migrant workers in France, as it promotes and magnifies the racist rhetoric boasted by politicians and far-right parties in the country. 

When far-left LFI party member Carlos Martens Bilongo questioned the government's approach to migrants rescued at sea, a far-right parliamentarian, Gregoire de Fournas, exclaimed: "They should go back to Africa!". Just one day after the announcement of the new immigration regulations, this ignited a heated discussion about the concerns and future of migration in the country. A plethora of racist rhetoric, such as the example seen above, is expected to emerge and multiply from the announcement of such immigration policies.

On Wednesday, the French government announced a law that would provide a special residency permit for illegal immigrants working in understaffed sectors. The new law attempts to combat the rampant exploitation of unauthorized workers midst labour shortage in several European countries.

ImpACT International is concerned with the new immigration measure, which is expected to be considered in 2023, that will speed up the expulsion of certain irregular migrants while establishing residency cards for unauthorized migrants currently in France who wish to work in labour-shortage industries.

With the run up to the 2024 Paris Olympics, France has a concerning number of understaffed industries, such as the construction, hospitality, and agricultural industry, that rely significantly on the exploitation of foreign labour. However, with such concerns human rights organisations and the news industry have expressed that the new bill may not serve to help the workers who face mistreatment in the aforementioned industries.

The "métiers en stress" residence permit was inspired by a 2012 official circular that permitted migrants who have worked in France for several months to receive a residence card. However, as these cases are reviewed individually, the finalisation process may take months up to years to complete, leaving thousands of labourers in a limbo. This waiting duration is coupled with the regulation that the length of the job contract determines the residency permit.

The French government is failing its citizens from abuse by greedy and reckless employers, particularly those operating in the construction industry

- Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT International

With the proposed "skills in demand" residency permit, an undocumented worker can request legal status "without going through the employer," who may have a strong interest in keeping workers unauthorized seeing as undocumented employees are not covered by French labour law. This loophole in turn allows employees to exploit undocumented workers under unjust circumstances, where, under the law, they cannot be held accountable.

In addition to this, ministers have not specified if illegal migrants require a work contract or letter of employment, as specified under the 2012 Circular. If so, allowing migrants to apply for a permit "without going via the employer" seems inconsistent.

“While the new motion might mitigate the difficulties for migrant workers in France and combat inconsistencies and abuses against migrants, the new immigration measures seem to be more of a symbolic one designed for political gains, said Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT International.

A construction site employee based in Paris, Guinean Amadou Barry, told ImpACT International researchers that although this bill seems promising, the problem is that he will have to wait for months or maybe years to get an answer from the prefecture about our papers, leaving that individual to suffer various abuses, fraud and unhealthy work conditions from their employer.

Barry immigrated 5 years ago and has been working for various construction companies for a very low wage. He added that he has been a victim of two fraudulent companies that exploited his weak legal situation in the country. As he does not possess legal papers, Barry found that he has no rights guaranteed and for that reason found himself unable to report any form misconduct coming from his employer.

In response to the backlash, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that the administration was attempting "selective immigration" or "chosen regulation." He said the goal was to restrict immigration on a smaller scale. "If I had to summarise, I would say that we must now be tough on the bad guys and kind to the rule-abiders,” Darmanin told Le Monde earlier this week. Yet, the administration has not said whether "chosen" laws will apply to new immigrants or existing unauthorized migrants.

The Centre-right French government have tried to implement policies like Australia and Canada's points-based systems, where immigration eligibility is determined by an applicant's ability to score above a threshold number of points in a scoring system that includes education level, work skills, and language fluency.

This means that hundreds of migrants, like Barry, who have been working under dire conditions in the country, will still face vague and uncertain future in the country, where they might face expulsion from the country and as a result have lived in hope to receive eligibility only to have their rights stripped.

In August, ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies highlighted examples of such dire conditions of these migrant workers. Some of which, worked for Ociété Route Assainissement Construction (SORACO) which was in crisis.

ImpACT said that due to a management crisis in the company, millions of euros were unaccounted for and may be lost, leaving workers who totally depend on their salaries without pay for many months.

Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT International, states that “The French government is failing its citizens from abuse by greedy and reckless employers, particularly those operating in the construction industry. Regrettably, this is not an isolated incident. Impact recently reported on the abuse of migrant workers illegally employed and exploited at Olympic sites where they were toiling to construct the athlete’s accommodation.”

Ultimately, ImpACT International calls on the French government to immediately uphold its responsibility, guarantee the rights of migrant workers and mitigate their dire financial and work conditions.

ImpACT International stresses on the urgency of not only enforcing the new immigration law but also modifying it to include all foreign workers, without any harmful selectivity to guarantee the welfare and wellbeing of all migrant workers in the country. 

ImpACT International stresses the urgency of the situation where it is not only enough to enforce new immigration laws, but foreign workers should ultimately be protected from the harmful selectivity process where their welfare and wellbeing is currently on the line. A guarantee of such safe keeping procedures will ensure that these workers are not waiting to be cherry picked according to their eligibility scores.


Israel should reconsider its policies towards immigrants and migrant...

Israel should reconsider its policies towards immigrants and migrant workers and stop forcibly deporting them

‘We don’t want to die in this desert’: Nepali migrant workers strand...

Following allegations made by Nepalese workers employed by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), London-based think tank ImpACT International for Human...

The Role of Business in Mitigating the Social Impact of the COVID-19...

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented consequences across the globe, affecting everyone from business owners and policymakers to low-income wo...