The French government is rewarding migrant frontline workers with citizenship for their selfless acts of valor in the fight against COVID-19. “Health care workers, cleaning professionals, childcare workers and store clerks … They have proved their commitment to the nation. It is now up to the Republic to take a step toward them,” said French Junior Minister for Citizenship Marlene Schiappa’s office in a statement released on Tuesday.
France has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and almost 62,000 deaths, placing it among the top 10 countries worst hit by coronavirus infections. French citizenship applications can take some five years to complete. The processes involved have further delayed amid the pandemic.
In September, the French government asked regional officials to fast track the naturalization process for foreign workers who “actively contributed” to the fight against coronavirus. More than 70 applicants have so far gained citizenship while some 700 are in the final stages of becoming citizens. A total of 2,890 people have applied as of Tuesday.
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People have however raised concerns on whether citizenship is now being granted to those seen as “good” immigrants, reports say.
In 2017, France’s immigrant population was 6.4 million, with many from former colonies including in north and west Africa, figures cited by BBC show. One must go through a long process before becoming a citizen. In 2019, over 112,000 people acquired French citizenship, with more than 48,000 through naturalization, but this was 18 percent less than in 2015.
This is however not the first time that France has recognized contributions to the nation with citizenship. In 2018, undocumented Malian immigrant Mamoudou Gassama was offered French citizenship and a job as a firefighter after he bravely climbed to the fourth floor of a building to rescue a child clinging on to his life on a balcony.
In 2017, the French government also officially granted citizenship to 28 military veterans of African descent who fought on the side of France in World War II.