Les migrations

Since when has France been a land of immigration?

Postcard, Anonymous (photographer), Brasserie Tchèque, Paris, between 1900 and 1914
Postcard showing a Czech brasserie located at 57 rue des Petites Écuries in Paris. It was run by restaurateur Fr. Poldene, according to the postcard caption. In this view, a man, probably the owner, stands in front of the brasserie's door. On one of the display windows, a painted inscription specifies the specialty in French, "Choucroute garnie/A toute heure/cuisine bourgeoise/Demi-blonde 45 . Demi-brune 50/Bock 30", with the Czech translation "Wierner Kúrche/Ceská Kuchynè".
Postcard, Anonymous (photographer), Brasserie Tchèque, Paris, between 1900 and 1914, Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration, Inv 2012.58.1 © EPPPD-MNHI

The different waves of immigration

France is the oldest immigration country in Europe. From the second half of the 19th century, mass immigration arrived to make up for labour shortages.
Starting out in border regions (German, Belgian), it diversified in the late 19th  century, and even more so after World War 1, to meet the country’s needs for rebuilding. Italian (the largest community in 1930) and Polish immigrations largely contributed to maintain the mining and building  sectors, and the steel and metallurgy industries.
Soon after World War 2, the migration landscape diversified since Italian immigrants, being fewer than expected, were replaced by Spanish, Portuguese, Yugoslavian, Turkish, Tunisian, Moroccan immigrants and, lastly, people from Sub-Saharan countries. Algerian immigration, for its part, dates back much further since it started in the late 19th century.
When the State decided to stop immigration for salaried work in 1974, this accelerated the grouping together of families of non-Europeans, few of whom returned to their countries whereas the Europeans were gradually benefitting from freedom to circulate, settle and work.

A (slow) diversification of countries of origin

Nowadays the migration landscape has diversified, also due to the arrival of asylum seekers from Latin America, Asia and Africa, but also from Europe and the Near East. New migrations (Chinese, Indian, Pakistani) are developing, as are those from Eastern Europe: skilled Romanian and Bulgarian workers, Chechen refugees and transit migrants coming from ex-Yugoslavia and Romania – mainly Roms.
Nevertheless, the slow pace of the history of migrations, and that of the colonial empire, are still leaving their mark on statistical data: 49% of immigrants living in France come from seven countries: Algeria (12.7%), Morocco (12%), Portugal (8.6%), Tunisia (4.5%), Italy (4.1%), Turkey (3.6%), Spain (3.5%).
Likewise, 41% of the immigrants who arrived in France in 2019 were born in Africa and 31.9% were born in Europe. Those same immigrants arriving in France in 2019 were more often born in Morocco (9.5%), Algeria (7%), Tunisia (4.5%), Italy (4.5%), Spain (3.3%), the United Kingdom (3.2%), China (3%) or Romania (2.8%).

Mustapha Harzoune, 2022