Even if you’re an immigrant escaping poverty in Africa or war in Syria, there’s apparently one place you don’t want to wind up: France. The Financial Times reports:
From his freezing polythene and wooden shack on an icy verge in Calais’ migrant camp, Ahmed has a commanding view of the sparkling white containers the French government has provided for the growing population.
The draught-proof, heated units are arranged in two-storey rows in a gravelled compound, complete with electricity and a green perimeter fence for security. Bunks are fitted with new mattresses and clean, crisp sheets.
But Ahmed, who arrived in Calais’ so-called Jungle migrant camp after a year-long journey from his native Darfur region in Sudan, says he has no intention of accepting the government’s hospitality because he thinks there is a catch.
“There is a problem with that place,” says the 28-year-old, stretching an arm and pointing to the containers about 20 yards away. “If I accept to go there, they will take my details and when I go to England, the authorities will tell me that I have to return to live in France.”
And so do thousands of others like him. Meanwhile, until last week only 19 residents of the Jungle had taken the French up on their offer of asylum. The FT cites a variety of reasons that migrants and refugees won’t stay in la belle France: language difficulties, anti-immigrant sentiment, and a slow, sclerotic asylum system with a low success rate (which native French may not see as a flaw). But one reason looms above them all: the poor state of the French economy.
This is a timely reminder that what we’re seeing is actually the collision of two civilizations in crisis. It’s all well and good to say the newcomers aren’t entitled to French jobs, but what about the French youth and the residents of the banlieues, who are legally welcome but economically excluded? It’s bad news for France when even semi-literate illegal migrants see that the French system isn’t a good bet for the future.