Re-Integration of French Settlers and the Resilience of the French Economy in the 1960s

Saturday, April 16, 2016
Aria B (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Sung-Eun Choi , History, Bentley University
In 1962, when Algeria, a French colony since 1830, gained independence, one million French settlers evacuated Algeria and fled to France. Massive moneys and resources were mobilized to house, employ, and integrate them in France. Since their arrival, these repatriates pumped capital and labor into the southern littoral where they settled and have lived since. The repatriates have insisted that they contributed to the French economy and made it more resilient. While this was true in some places, they also benefited from government aid on a massive scale. In contrast to the resources deployed to help repatriates, France began to withdraw aid to the Muslim migrant laborers who had contributed to French heavy industries after World War II. This paper shows how the notion of resilience was politicized to the disadvantage of ethnic minorities and in favor of white colonists returning from Algeria even though Algerian migrant laborers had contributed greatly to the economy. But it also shows that in cases where the country was forced to absorb its own citizens, it could in fact do so. This shows how arguments about the contribution or lack thereof with respect to migrants can have highly political motivations.