PARIS — On a summer day in 1978, my father, a 48-year-old pediatrician in a tiny French town, was deeply unsettled by what he saw on a dusk news. Vietnamese families, journey a Communists by a tens of thousands, had taken to a sea where they were descending chase to pirates and hurtful Thai limit guards. A French doctor, Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, appealed for help.
He wrote down a Paris phone series mentioned on TV. The subsequent day, he called and volunteered to join Dr. Kouchner on a sanatorium boat he was environment adult to rescue a refugees in a South China Sea. Abandoning his private practice, he shortly found himself on a moody to Singapore where he boarded a ship, Île de Lumière, and afterwards spent a integrate of months treating ill children on house and in interloper camps. Back in France, people were welcoming Vietnamese refugees with open arms, mobilized by left and worried intellectuals, politicians and church leaders. In a few years, we engrossed 130,000 “boat people.”
That was France in 1978. The France of 2015 offers a unfortunate contrariety to this inexhaustible image. Today, Angela Merkel and Germany reason a cool high belligerent — yes, a same Germany that was vilified for a rapacity over a Greek crisis. Meanwhile, French leaders onslaught with a issue, intellectuals and church leaders are nowhere to be heard, and opinion polls simulate a new Gallic callousness. The large exodus that clever during a summer, a disharmony during Europe’s doors, a new “jungle” in Calais, a tears of mothers and children held in a mayhem — zero seems to pierce us anymore. When a physique of a Syrian toddler was cleared adult on a Turkish beach, many European newspapers put a agonizing design on their front page. In France, a usually vital inhabitant paper to do so was Le Monde. Have we turn numb?
Polls indeed exhibit some worried truths. The series of people in France opposite to holding in refugees from Syria, for example, has decreased given July, down from 64 percent to 56 percent, though they are still a majority. There is a clever narrow-minded divide: 91 percent of National Front electorate and 67 percent of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters are opposite holding in some-more migrants, while 68 percent of Socialist electorate and 73 percent of Green supporters are in favor.
There is also a generational and amicable divide; comparison and affluent people are some-more expected to accept migrants. The reason is simple: Older people have left a foe for jobs, and affluent people don’t live in neighborhoods with high newcomer populations. The age difficulty many antagonistic to new immigrants is people 35 to 49; not surprisingly, it is also a one where a far-right National Front enjoys some-more support.
Marine Le Pen, a National Front leader, has not been really outspoken on a migrant predicament — she doesn’t need to. Her celebration is a elephant in a room. Its 20 to 25 percent share of a votes over a past year partly explains since French politicians, with a belated difference of a Greens, are so wordless about a interloper issue: They are inept by fear, a fear of feeding a xenophobic National Front. Don’t even consider of saying Mr. Sarkozy following in a footsteps of Ms. Merkel; no French politician in his or her right mind would brave to revisit a interloper core these days.
Only when Prime Minister Manuel Valls during final started to forcefully residence a refugees’ distress in a cool tone, in a debate on Aug. 30, and afterwards proceeded to transport to Calais, did Ms. Le Pen lift her voice, warning him not to “sacrifice Calais to a European Union dogmas” and “open a doors of a nation to new bootleg immigrants.” Mr. Valls’s guarantee to “treat, preserve and yield medical caring to migrants in a cool way” was song to her ears. So a primary apportion tries to keep a ethereal balance, building preserve for 1,500 of a migrants in Calais’s “jungle” though not for all 3,000 of them, to equivocate being indicted of mouth-watering a migrants to come.
Other explanations embody this simple one: France is not Germany. Unlike Germany, France, with a good flood rate, doesn’t have a demographic problem. Unlike Germany, France has a large stagnation problem, quite among immature people. Unlike Germany, France, a former colonial power, has engrossed millions of people from Africa, many of them Muslims. And it has finished a bad pursuit of integrating them: This nation is still disorder from a groups that emerged in Jan between a “Je Suis Charlie” stay and a “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie” dissenters.
Yet France can't be deaf to a calls for European care on a predicament that Ms. Merkel has righteously described as some-more critical than a euro crisis, since it hurdles Europe’s core values, among them solidarity. President François Hollande prides himself with heading a quarrel opposite radical Islam in Europe, with infantry committed around a world, tough anti-terrorist laws and absolute comprehension tools. Unlike Ms. Merkel, he was in preference of troops involvement in Syria, dual years ago. He wants to be seen as a hard-liner, not as a softie. He now contingency determine this plan with a flourishing support among his electorate for a German chancellor’s scrupulous mount on refugees.
It took a comfortless design of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s physique to make him do only that. The day it went viral, on Thursday, Mr. Hollande met with several of his ministers during a Elysée Palace, and announced that he had submitted to a European institutions, with Ms. Merkel, a offer for a “permanent imperative mechanism” to take in some-more refugees and discharge them among a 28 member states. “Europe is a set of beliefs and values,” he said. “It is time to act.” To be frank, it was time prolonged ago.
Sylvie Kauffmann is a editorial executive and a former editor in arch of Le Monde.