Europe, migration and the multiculturalism debate

As I landed in Paris yesterday and was greeted with the very ethnically diverse workforce at Charles Degaulles Airport, I could not help thinking about the current polarised debates of migration, race and racism in French polity and across Europe.

Indeed, and for the last few weeks French society has discovered that apparently even their once cherished football (soccer) national team did not escape the politics of ethnicity and identity. It was revealed that there discussions and plans to limit the number of African and Arab junior players in French football clubs and sports institutes as a way of preserving the presence of ‘white’ players at elite levels.

The story implicated even current national team coach Laurent Blanc (ironically his name translates to ‘Laurent the White’!!) and descended French society into yet another dark episode of implicit institutional racism that is often swept under the carpet.

This and other similar incidents in France, including the banning of the headscarf, as well as recent comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron about the failures of multiculturalism, highlight the entrenched failures of social policy in Europe’s largest emigre societies in the areas of migration and social inclusion.

The fact is France does not accord any cultural rights to migrants or their descendants under the pretext of the secular Republican   values of ‘equality and brotherhood’ which surely rates as one of the most hollow national slogans when you consider the lot of African and Arab migrants in French society today!

Germany, on the other hand, not only does not have a multicultural policy to speak of of but worse still until recently did not even allow German born second generation migrants to acquire Germany citizenship! Hence, the talk of the failure of a policy that does not actually exist is quite perplexing to say the least.

So much for the failure of the multiculturalism ideal!

Fethi Mansouri