Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

Why won’t Macron agree to an immigration referendum?

French president Emmanuel Macron (Credit: Getty images)

It is a peculiarity of the age in France that the subject that most divides the political class is the one that most unites the people they govern. Immigration is the issue that needs to be urgently addressed, according to voters, a message they have been telling their politicians for years. In January 2013, a poll found that 70 per cent of the electorate believed there were too many foreigners in the country; that figure has remained constant over the years, rising slightly in 2023 after the riots, atrocities and Islamist attacks that have scarred the Republic this year.  

A poll last week disclosed that 80 per cent of the public believe France should no longer accept any migrants. Racist? A few might be. Most, however, are simply fed up with the grim reality of mass uncontrolled immigration. Last week, official government figures revealed that 35 per cent of suspects arrested for violent robbery are foreigners, a figure that rises to 41 per cent for burglary. Emmanuel Macron is aware of this delinquency, admitting last year that half of crimes in Paris are committed by foreigners. 

In fact, the president has been aware of the gravity of the situation for far longer. In an interview in October 2017 – five months after his election – Macron declared that ‘protection is the first mission of the State’. He made this statement in response to the brutal murder of two young women outside Marseille station, knifed to death by a Tunisian Islamist who had been arrested 48 hours earlier only to be released on a judicial technicality. In future, said Macron, ‘foreigners in the country illegally’ who commit an offence ‘of any kind will be deported’. Trust me, he said, ‘I will be uncompromising on the issue’. 

Last month, Macron ruled out a referendum on immigration

Macron has failed to honour his pledge.

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