On the refugee issue, French politicians are paralyzed by fear

Sylvie Kauffmann writes: When the body of a Syrian toddler was washed up on a Turkish beach, most European newspapers put the excruciating picture on their front page. In France, the only major national paper to do so was Le Monde. Have we become numb?

Polls actually reveal some uncomfortable truths. The number of people in France opposed to taking in refugees from Syria, for example, has decreased since July, down from 64 percent to 56 percent, but they are still a majority. There is a strong partisan divide: 91 percent of National Front voters and 67 percent of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters are against taking in more migrants, while 68 percent of Socialist voters and 73 percent of Green supporters are in favor.

There is also a generational and social divide; older and well-off people are more likely to accept migrants. The reason is simple: Older people have left the competition for jobs, and well-off people don’t live in neighborhoods with high immigrant populations. The age category most hostile to new immigrants is people 35 to 49; not surprisingly, it is also the one where the far-right National Front enjoys more support.

Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader, has not been very vocal on the migrant crisis — she doesn’t need to. Her party is the elephant in the room. Its 20 to 25 percent share of the votes over the past year partly explains why French politicians, with the belated exception of the Greens, are so silent about the refugee issue: They are paralyzed by fear, the fear of feeding the xenophobic National Front. [Continue reading…]

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