5 Largest Immigrant Groups in France

                          5 Largest Immigrant Groups in France

France has long been a destination for immigrants, with a diverse immigrant population representing various foreign nationalities. The immigrant population, born outside France, has evolved over the years. Notably, immigrants from North Africa, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, as well as Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Spain, have played significant roles in shaping the nation’s cultural fabric.

This diversity has fueled political debates, as the economic and social effects of immigration remain a topic of discussion, often exploited by far-right candidates. These debates touch upon immigration issues of religion, French identity, immigration policies, selective immigration, and the European Union’s external borders, reflecting the complex interplay of history, policy, and identity in France.

Historical Context

The five largest immigrant groups in France have changed over time. But as of 2018, the largest groups were born in Algeria (13%), Morocco (11.9%), Portugal (9.2%), Tunisia (4.4%), Italy (4.3%), Turkey (3.8%), and Spain (3.7%). However, it is worth noting that this data only includes persons of foreign nationality born outside France. It excludes persons born abroad to French parent. Immigration to France has been a significant phenomenon since the 19th century.

In the early 20th century, France had the reputation of being the European country most open to immigrants. It includes political refugees. However, this reputation changed in the late 20th century, when opposition rose to continued immigration from Africa. Over the years, immigrants have tended to concentrate in certain regions of France. French immigrants have tended to be more successful and influential than other groups in America.

French immigrants are generally urban, middle-class, skilled, and progressive. They are most likely to be employed as artisans or merchants. In recent years, government efforts in France have been focused on encouraging immigration of highly educated people. It is deemed to be good for the French economy.

  1. North Africans: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia

Among the largest immigrant groups in France are those hailing from North Africa, specifically Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. These foreign nationals, often born outside France, have had a substantial presence in the country for decades. The immigration from North Africa began during the colonial period and continued in the post-colonial era. Many North African immigrants arrived seeking employment and economic opportunities in the European economic powerhouse.

The North African Immigrant population has had a significant impact on French society. They have brought their rich cultural heritage, including cuisine, music, and traditions. It has become an integral part of French multiculturalism. However, their presence has also ignited political debates, particularly with far-right candidates raising immigration issues. It also concerns preserving French identity.

  1. Portuguese Immigrants

Portugal has a long history of immigration, and a considerable number of Portuguese immigrants have settled in France. Like other immigrant groups, many Portuguese nationals acquired French citizenship over time. The Portuguese community has made valuable contributions to the French workforce, notably in construction and other manual labor sectors.

  1. Italian Immigrants

Italy, another European neighbour, has also contributed significantly to France’s immigrant population. Italian immigrants have a strong presence in various sectors, including food and hospitality. Their cultural influence is evident in the French culinary landscape, with pizza and pasta being beloved staples in French cuisine.

  1. Turkish Immigrants

Turkey’s proximity to Europe has made it a source of immigration to France as well. Turkish immigrants have established communities. They also contributed to the country’s economic development, particularly in small businesses and industries.

  1. Spanish Immigrants

Historical ties between France and Spain have led to a substantial Spanish immigrant population. Spanish nationals, often born outside France, have made their mark in various sectors, from agriculture to art and culture. Their contributions to French society are celebrated through Spanish festivals and traditions. The economic and social effects of these immigrant groups in France are complex. On one hand, they have enriched the nation culturally and brought valuable labour to sustain the economy. On the other hand, they have raised concerns related to unemployment and social integration.

 Additionally, religious diversity has become more pronounced with the arrival of immigrants from different backgrounds. France’s immigration policies have evolved over the years to address these challenges. Selective immigration and stricter regulations have been implemented to control the flow of immigrants. It also maintains social cohesion. The European Union’s external borders also play a role in shaping France’s immigration landscape.


France’s immigrant population is a diverse tapestry, with significant contributions from North Africa, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Spain. While their presence has undeniably enriched French society. It has also given rise to political debates and discussions about economic and social effects, religion, and French identity. France’s immigration policies continue to adapt to these changing dynamics. It strikes a balance between openness and national interests within the context of the European Union’s external borders.



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