France has recognized the great efforts of some immigrants working on the Coronavirus frontline by rewarding them with fast-track citizenship. The interior ministry invited these immigrant workers to apply for accelerated naturalization.
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 workers around the world have been exposed to Covid-19 at a high rate with many dying from the disease including doctors and nurses.
France is in the top 10 countries worst hit by Coronavirus infections, with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and close to 62,000 deaths. The 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.
On Tuesday, the office of Marlene Schiappa, junior minister for citizenship revealed that:
Health professionals, cleaning ladies, childcare workers, and 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.
Normally a successful applicant must have been resident in France for five years with a stable income and demonstrated integration into French society. But 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. The number of people granted naturalization is decreasing, with 10% fewer in 2019 than in 2018.
This isn’t the first time that France has recognized bravery and contributions to the nation with citizenship. Back in 2018, Mamoudou Gassama (a man from Mali) was awarded French citizenship after he was dubbed “spiderman” for saving a young boy dangling from a balcony in Paris