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IMMIGRATION

How France’s Muslim population will grow in the future

There are currently an estimated 5.7 million Muslims in France but that number could grow dramatically by 2050, a new study has predicted.

How France's Muslim population will grow in the future
Grand Mosque of Paris. Photo: AFP
France's Muslim population has greatly increased in recent years.
 
This is partly down to a record number of people seeking asylum in Europe as they flee conflicts in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries, but mainly due to normal migration from Muslim countries.
 
Between mid-2010 and mid-2016, France received more than half a million Muslim migrants. Most of these were regular migrants rather than asylum seekers, according to the report by respected American think-tank Pew Research Centre which calls itself “non-partisan”.
 
During this time, France also accepted a total of 80,000 refugees, most of whom were Muslim. 
 
Pew's new study looking at how this is likely to change Europe's population predicts what it could mean for the future make up of France according to three possible scenarios. 
 
Graph: Pew
 
The first considers how France's Muslim population would be impacted by 2050 if migration stops altogether.
 
If arrivals halted altogether, France — which was home to an estimated 5.7 million Muslims (8.8 percent of the population) in 2016 according to the report — would continue to have Europe's largest Muslim community.
 
 
Table: Pew
 
Pew predicts the figure would rise to 8.6 million or 12.7 percent of the population.
 
“Those countries with Muslim populations that are especially young, or have a relatively large number of children, like France, as well as Italy and Belgium, would see the most significant change in the zero migration scenario,” reveals the report. 
 
Map: Pew
 
“Medium” and “high” migration scenarios
 
The second scenario looks at a “medium migration scenario”, that is to say if regular migration continues in the future but there are no more asylum seekers. 
 
If this is the case, France would be surpassed by the United Kingdom as the country in Europe with the highest population of people who identify themselves as Muslims.
 
Map: Pew
 
This would see France with a Muslim population of 12.6 million in 2050 or 17.4 percent of the population, compared to 8.5 million in Germany and 13 million Muslims in the UK (17.4 percent), says the report. 
 
“This is because the UK was the top destination country for regular Muslim migrants as opposed to refugees,” the report said. 
 
“Both France and the UK are expected to be roughly 17 percent Muslim by 2050 in the medium scenario, several percentage points higher than they would be if all future migration were to stop.”
 
Meanwhile in the third category, which “assumes that the current refugee flows will continue in the coming decades, not only at the same volume but also with the same religious composition”, France would have a Muslim population of 13.2 million, making up 18 percent of the population by 2050. 
 
In this “high scenario”, Germany would be home to 17.5 million Muslims by 2050, by far the highest number of Muslims in Europe. 
 
Overall, Muslims could make up over 11 percent of Europe's population in the coming decades, compared with just under 5 percent currently, if legal migration levels are maintained, the US-based think tank said.
 
Map: Pew
 
 
French people reckoned that 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the real figure according to Pew research in 2010 was 7.5 percent.
 

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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