France gives fast-track citizenship to migrant frontline Covid workers

A total of 2,890 people have applied so far.

Bethany Dawson
Wednesday 23 December 2020 16:50
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Hundreds of migrant workers on the Covid-19 frontline in France have had gratitude bestowed upon them in the form of fast-track citizenship approval.

The interior ministry invited residents helping with efforts to protect the nation from the pandemic to apply for accelerated naturalisation.

Over 700 have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it.

They include healthcare professionals, cleaners and shop workers.

Frontline healthcare workers are considered to be in one of the most at-risk positions during the pandemic, with many dying from the virus.

France has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and close to 62,000 deaths, giving it the fourth-highest rate of cases in the world, and the sixth-highest rate of deaths.

The expedited citizenship initiative was first announced in September. Seventy-four people have already been granted a French passport and another 693 are in the final stages. A total of 2,890 people have applied so far.

"Health professionals, cleaning ladies, childcare workers, checkout staff: They all proved their commitment to the nation, and it is now the turn of the republic to take a step towards them," the office of Marlene Schiappa, a junior minister for citizenship, said on Tuesday.

This move, however, has raised concerns on whether citizenship is only granted to those considered “good” immigrants.

Across France, protests are occurring in support of undocumented migrants (known in France as sans-papiers, directly translating to without papers), calling for the government to grant them regularization.

At these protests, which occurred in 50 cities across the country, Kanouté, from Mali, described to France24 that he works both at a restaurant and as an uber-eats driver.

“During [lockdown], we did not stop … Without papers, we cannot really start our life" said the 24-year-old.

Kanouté is one of the people who will not be receiving a fast-tracked citizenship status.

In 2017 France's immigrant population was 6.4 million, including a significant number from former colonies including in north and west Africa, but becoming a citizen can be a fraught and slow process.

Now, the number of people granted naturalisation is decreasing, with 10% fewer in 2019 than in 2018.

Normally a successful applicant must have been resident in France for five years with a stable income and demonstrated integration into French society.

However, the government has said frontline Covid workers must only live in France for two years to be eligible for citizenship in recognition of their "great services rendered".

In 2017 France's immigrant population was 6.4 million, including a significant number from former colonies including in north and west Africa, but becoming a citizen can be a fraught and slow process.

It isn't the first time that France has recognised bravery and contributions to the nation with citizenship.

In May 2018, Mamoudoi Gassama - also known as “Spiderman of the 18th” - was awarded with French citizenship after saving a young boy from falling out of a fourth-story window in just 30 seconds.

Mr Gassama is originally from Mali, and President Macron made him a citizen in September 2018.

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