Patrice de Beer's essay at Open Democracy, "France's immigration myths", merits reading and not only because of its identification of a profoundly important bias in public discourse on immigration.
In 1999, 23% (13.5 million out of 59 million) of the population were of immigrant origin – 4.3 million were migrants themselves, 5.5 million were children of immigrants, and 3.6 million were grandchildren. Of these, 22% were connected to north Africa, 5% to sub-Saharan Africa, and 53% to other European countries (mostly Italian, Spaniards, Portuguese and Poles, who also took decades to integrate). To understand the complexity of this situation, a reader might try to imagine what such percentages could mean for his or her own society.
In targeting only "coloured" and Muslim immigrants – less than 30% of the total – some French politicians seem to be playing with fire. Moreover, they run the risk of alienating former French (and francophone) Africa where France's influence has been paramount since it reached independence in the 1960s. The magazine L'Evènement (Burkina Faso) recently quoted the late Ivory Coast president, and former member of the French government, Felix Houphouët-Boigny, who once said: "I waited for the bride in front of the church with flowers in my hands but she didn't come. And my flowers have wilted". The magazine added a comment on Jacques Chirac's last visit to Africa: that, if France couldn't come out with a new and more sensible African strategy, she "could miss her second rendezvous with the Africans. And, this time, it could mean divorce."