TRENDS released a study on the current events in France: The political and social implications


TRENDS Research and Advisory series has just released a new study entitled "Violent Events in France: Another manifestation of migrants’ crises and isolated communities." The paper is part of TRENDS Center public Policy series. The study explores the current public unrest and its implications for both the political and social scenes in France. The violent events are linked to certain factors; mainly the immigrants’ identity crisis, isolated communities and political polarization.

The study, conducted by the Strategic Studies Department at TRENDS' Research and Advisory, found that the protests in France after the fatal police shooting of a young migrant caused the most intense violence since 2005. It prompted the French government to take extraordinary measures to address the unfolding disorder. These measures triggered different political reactions, between the far-right led by Marine Le Pen, who said that government measures were "insufficient", and left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who said that "police violence must end."

The study showed that the violent protests in France and the subsequent events and reactions, have resulted in many observations that can lead to an understanding of the current situation and identify the reasons for the escalation that lead to widespread violence.

The study indicated that the analysis should look into the geographical locations in which the violence erupted. They include the suburbs where the majority of minorities, migrants and refugees live. This means that the root causes of the current crisis transcend the considerations of human rights and are not limited to the police handling of a civilian unrest. In fact, they include the wider scope of the identity crisis and integration into the French society.

The second observation of the study is reflected in the age group of those engaged in these violent protests. The average age of most of the protesters is 17 years. This raises questions about the nature of this rising generation, in terms of its upbringing in isolated suburbs and its vision of the state and society in which they live. Moreover, it relates to the success or failure of the integration of illegal immigrants and refugees into the French society itself.

The third observation refers to the measures taken by the French police to address these violent protests, especially with regard to the size of police deployment and the equipment used. This indicates the gravity of the situation on ground and the attempts to abort any organized or semi-organized activity by the demonstrators to expand the protests. This may push the government towards declaring a state of emergency, as happened in 2005.

The fourth observation is linked to the attitude of the French political forces towards the violence and the reaction of the police. Their positions towards these two matters reflect their views on the issue of illegal immigrants or refugees, which makes it possible to understand the reasons for postponing the proposal to amend the French immigration law. The controversial immigration law might be one of the reasons for the continuation of the crisis, in terms of its political, social and economic ramifications.

The study’s fifth observation is that there were no official or unofficial reports about the participation of protesters who demonstrate against the changes in the French pension law and the retirement age. There is no credible evidence of their engagement in the current violent protests. This aspect holds some clues of concrete indications about the extent of the social cleavages and polarization in the French society.

In light of the previous observations, the study concluded that the events in France can be explored through certain aspects. The first is the identity crisis, refugee integration and the peripheral suburbs issues. The second axis refers to the latent role of political Islam in the current crisis, while the third is focused on the limits of the external role in igniting the events. Finally, there is the political exploitation of the events in the political tug of war and competition between the far-right parties and the French left.

The study explained that although the situation is likely to calm down soon, it might still escalate again. The repercussions of these events will remain linked to the issue of passing stricter legislation targeting immigrants and refugees, under the banner of preserving the principles and security of the French Republic. The French left dominant current will have difficulty rejecting this move vis-à-vis the temporary surge in the popularity of the extreme right. This situation may persist until the earliest general elections are called.

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