Inside Story
Has multiculturalism failed in Europe?
As Sarkozy says there are too many foreigners in France, we examine the alternatives to multiculturalism.
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2012 12:43

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has said his country has too many foreigners.

"We need to look at this in the context of an economic downturn, rising unemployment .... What we are seeing at the moment is that migration is truly a catch-all issue that masks the fears and uncertainty amongst the general public .... We are seeing a scapegoating of migrants."

- Jean-Philippe Chauzy, International Organization for Migration spokesperson

With elections around the corner, the French president has taken aim at integration efforts, using a televised debate to defend his campaign promise to cut the number of new immigrants coming to France by about half.

His message might appeal to right-wing voters who believe the country is being flooded with foreigners, but is he correct in his assertion that the system to integrate immigrants is simply failing?

The UN says immigration to Europe is on the rise. Europe is home to more than 730 million people. Nine-and-a-half per cent of them are immigrants.

Sarkozy's declaration, however, is nothing new. Last year he joined a growing number of European leaders in echoing these sentiments.

Last February, David Cameron, the British prime minister, said the doctrine of state multiculturalism had encouraged segregation:

"We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong."

"We do not want to attack the immigrant as an individual. What we would like to challenge is immigration as a phenomenon."

- Ludovic De Danne, a member of Le Front National

He went on to say: "We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values."

In October 2010, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, announced that the multicultural society had failed:

"Of course the tendency had been to say 'let's accept the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other'. But this concept has failed, and failed utterly."

So, why are European leaders increasingly saying that multiculturalism is a mistake? And what are the alternatives for a diverse continent?

Joining Inside Story with presenter Sami Zeidan to discuss this are: Jean-Philippe Chauzy, the spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration; Paul Scheffer, the author of Immigrant Nations and a professor of European Studies at the University of Tilburg; and Ludovic De Danne, an adviser to Marine Le Pen on European Affairs and a member of the central committee of Le Front National, a major French far-right party.

"If you look at the economics of migration there is a problem .... There are far too many ... migrants that are unemployed .... I don't see migrants taking away jobs. I see them not enough participating in our economic life. So we need to get the economics of migration in order."

Paul Scheffer, the author of Immigrant Nations


  • Spain - Population of 40 million, 14.1% are immigrants
  • Germany - Population of 80 million, 13.1% are immigrants
  • United Kingdom - Population of 60 million, 10.4% are immigrants
  • France - Population of 64 million, 10.7% are immigrants
  • Italy - Population of 60 million, 7.4% are immigrants


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