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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The "Circulaire Guéant": It's a Small Small World

It didn't take long for the news to go international with depressing results for the image of the French nation.

The New York Times published this article France is Sending North African Graduates Home earlier this month.  Apparently other articles were also published in major newspapers all around the world and the news is out.  Le Monde is reporting that French government officials and recruitment teams for foreign talent are being "harassed" with questions about the "May 31 Circular" wherever they go.

Damage control is finally underway.  The Prime Minister, François Fillon, sent this letter clarifying the intent of the measure.  He says:

La France est extrêmement attaché a sa tradition d'acceuil des étudiants étrangers, qui constitue un élément important de l'attractivité internationale de ses écoles et de ces universités.  Notre objectif est d'attirer les meilleurs étudiants du monde, en particulier en master et doctorat, au bénéfice du rayonnement de notre ensignement supérieur et de notre pays.
France is very attached to her tradition of welcoming foreign students who are an important element in the attractiveness of her schools and universities.  Our objective is to attract the best students in the world, in particular graduate students, to the benefit of our system of higher education and of our country.
And he goes on to say that he agrees that some students who really should have received work permits were indeed denied them and he has asked for their cases to be re-examined.  That is a good response and very well done on his part.

On the other hand, the very same day Fillon's letter came out Claude Guéant was once again in the news with a new attack on legal immigration saying, yet again, that there are simply too many immigrants coming to France.  In his article he repeats his resolve to reduce the numbers, vows to fight against abuses by immigrants of French social services and adding, for good measure, an assault on bi-national marriage: "Beaucoup de mariages sont frauduleux. Il faut, qu'avec le ministre de la Justice, nous veillons à ce que les mariages soient des vrais mariages." (Many of these marriages are fraudulent. We must ensure, by working with the Minister of Justice, that these are real marriages.)

Talked about a mixed message on the part of the government and one that goes so far as to personally offend me.  If Mr. Guéant would like  to examine whether or not my husband and I have a "true" marriage and that the products of our 23-year marriage, our Frenchlings, are really our children, I suppose he has that right.  I doubt however that such action would convince any member of our family (French citizens and non-citizens alike) of the "attractiveness" of France.

Le Monde ended their article by quoting Jean-Pierre Raffarin on the options open to international students:  "Entre une administration canadienne accueillante et une administration française un peu fermée, ils font vite le choix." (Between a welcoming Canadian administration and a French one that is closed, they quickly make their choice.)   I said it before and I think it's worth repeating:  migrants have options.  I sincerely hope that the French government realizes that it's not just international students they risk losing, it's all migrants who just might decide that a work or residency permit is no compensation for having to breathe poisoned air.


Le Chroniqueur said...

Well said. It's very sad indeed.

I hope you're aware it's an electoral measure, no matter how terribly cynical and misguided it is. The UMP tries to "siphon off" FN would-be (and actual) voters by "out-FN-ing" the far-right xenophobes. We'll see if this strategy works, but I doubt it will. We're in for a very interesting electoral year in 2012. Well, I'm bracing myself for a lot of embarrassment... it won't be easy for us French citizens abroad to be lumped together with all the xenophobes who will vote en masse for You-Know-Who and her ilk next year.

But the biggest losers will be these thousands of foreign graduates forced to leave the country, and of course the French economy. I wrote 2 pieces about the subject in my blog too.

The sad thing is, even if this measure does not help the UMP rake in the hundreds of thousands of rightwing votes it is intended to, when this Circulaire is eventually scrapped (I'm somewhat naïvely confident it eventually will, actually I am positively astounded Guéant still holds his ground here), it will have contributed nevertheless to the general deterioration of the climate in France regarding the situation of all non-EU foreigners, whether legal or illegal, educated or not, rich or poor, muslim or not. And this is extremely regrettable. History will judge these clowns. Bear in mind that Guéant is not even an elected politician; he's just an appointed technocrat.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thank you so much for the comment and the superb link - I loved both pieces. Really well expressed.

Yes, we are in an election cycle. In the U.S. too which means much prostituting for votes. I am not enjoying having to explain to people here what is happening in Alabama, for example. :-)

I'm a bit curious to see how the EU reacts to all of this. The Blue Card was meant to attract foreign talent to Europe and here are the member countries doing the exact opposite.

I agree that the circulaire will eventually be scrapped. Interestingly enough my French friends and colleagues here are under the impression that it already has been rescinded and they were very surprised to hear otherwise. I think the government may be misreading their electorate. I really don't think the next election is going to be won or lost on how many (or how few) immigrants there are in France. As Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid!"

Anonymous said...

This is such a great topic, Victoria. I don't have much to add except to say that nationalism is alive and well in so many countries (let's not make a list). Today some UMP acquaintances were joking about when Jean-Marie Le Pen was serving cassolette with jambon and porc sausage to the poor. Briliant! Xenophobes unite! But they are serving "cassolette" in the US, GB, Japan, and China. I wonder if the absence of foreign students will hurt France, the US, or other countries. Innovation and creativity may be lost in one country but gained in another: a zero sum game? Be gentle please. I think it was James Carville who... Best regards. Mike