Social chaos can destabilize the country and harm Macron’s projects….
Since his election, French President Emmanuel Macron has made a series of changes in his country’s foreign policy. France has assumed an increasingly prominent role in the geopolitical scenario, gaining space in areas such as North Africa and the Middle East, in addition to occupying a leading position within the European Union. However, France’s international growth may be hampered by internal problems that have been worsening recently. The public security crisis, social instability and constant conflicts on the streets of large French urban centers are the greatest threats to the national project designed by Macron.
This summer was particularly bloody for the French people. News of massacres, murders, vandalism and all forms of arbitrary violence have become common across the country. In Bayonne, in July, a driver was assaulted by passengers after asking them to wear a mask to get into the vehicle. Weeks later, a nurse and her dog were brutally murdered while walking on the streets of Lyon. The murderers – two immigrants – intentionally hit the woman and the dog several times. Neither was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they just murdered the woman and her dog without any purpose, as they admitted. Similar cases abound, especially episodes of beatings and stabbings in large cities, always having arbitrary and unmeasured violence as commonplace by acts that are absolutely trivial.
In a recent statement, the Interior Minister of Emmanuel Macron’s government, Gerald Darmanin, stated that France is “fed up with insecurity” and a fiery debate within the French political scene has been launched. A more reactionary wing of the government links the rise in crime to the massive reception of immigrants and refugees. On the other hand, there are those who vehemently deny any relationship between immigration and crimes. In fact, despite all the ideological issues and the terrible consequences of racism and xenophobia, it must be admitted that the vast majority of the perpetrators of such violent acts are immigrants or refugees. The big challenge is how to admit it and fight that reality without inflating a wave of xenophobia in the population that only tends to increase violence across the country even more.
Two personalities who stand out when speaking publicly about crime in France are Darmanin – Macron’s supporter, and Marine Le Pen – opponent and pointed out by some as “right-wing extremist”, who started a war of words and disputed the most convincing narrative to explain the phenomenon of crime and propose solutions to the topic. Darmanin accuses Le Pen of not having any proposal for the solution of the problem and has recently claimed that Marine “is not a serious person”. Le Pen, on the other hand, has not, in fact, highlighted major proposals for a solution, but severely criticizes the security crisis and sees in this topic a potential electoral speech for her in the next presidential elections.
In fact, there is an undeniable existence of a strong culture of “social excuse” in France, which tends to excessively radicalize progressive and pro-immigration discourse, even going so far as to omit real data and create distortions in favor of complete forgiveness of immigrants within the national context of violence. Not only have progressive politicians been active in this effort to completely disassociate immigration from criminality, but so have intellectuals and, especially, the French media. It should be noted, however, that, as such acts perpetrated by immigrants are ignored or distorted, more incentive is given to the spread of hatred and xenophobia, consequently generating more episodes of racism and racial violence, which may already be also seen in French national security data: in the last year, there has been an 11% increase in racial hate crimes in France.
There is a big problem between the two extremes of racism and the “social excuse of immigrants”, which is the inspection of legality in migration processes. France, being a country that welcomes migratory flows, ends up bringing with it several side effects of its humanitarian policies, among which we can highlight the entry of illegal immigrants. The number of irregular immigrants in French territory has been increasing year after year. Dimensioning the exact number of such immigrants is difficult due to the fact that they are not registered in the official data of the French government, but several facts show this. In June, French police evacuated nearly 400 illegal immigrants in Paris and Calais, dismantling improvised camps in the suburbs of both cities – coincidentally in their most violent regions. Such immigrants not officially registered by the government are absolutely unknown people and can have the most diverse criminal backgrounds in their countries of origin. Despite the whole humanitarian issue, national security must be prioritized.
The national security crisis is a serious problem for the entire Emmanuel Macron’s project, which aims to elevate France’s role in global geopolitics. With the country being fragmented into internal conflicts between gangs and tribes, with inflated racial hatred and crimes of arbitrary and purposeless violence being practiced daily, the French government will soon have to take drastic measures to regain control of the country itself, which harm any international projection. Macron already seems to have understood this and recently stated that he will become totally intransigent on the trivialization of violence. This will be a fundamental condition for a possible re-election of the president and for the realization of his projects, otherwise, France will implode.
Lucas Leiroz, research fellow international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.