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Fourth report on France [en] - [fr]

Press Release – 15.06.2010

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on France

Strasbourg, 15.6.2010 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on France. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that while there had been improvements in certain areas, some issues gave rise for concern, such as minorities’ perception of the police, prejudice against Muslims and the tone of the immigration debate.

As regards positive developments, the legal framework to combat discrimination has been strengthened. The police, prosecutors and judges have received training and their response to racially motivated offences has improved. The High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality (HALDE) plays a key and growing role in the fight against racism. It uses its broad competences proactively and makes a strong contribution to public debate.

Openly racist statements and acts of violence are generally condemned by politicians. Amendments to the asylum procedure have in some cases advanced non-citizens’ rights. There has been genuine reflection and discussion in the political arena on the question of measuring diversity and “ethnic statistics”, which would allow the evaluation of the impact of general policies on ethnic and religious groups.

However, despite recent changes in the field of criminal law, many victims fail to report racist acts to the police. The low number of convictions does not reflect the true situation as regards racism in France. The police frequently resort to racial profiling and take law enforcement decisions on the basis of racial, ethnic or religious stereotypes rather than on the basis of individual behaviour.

Discrimination on grounds of “race”, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin persists in access to employment, education, housing, and goods and services. Children from immigrant backgrounds are disproportionately represented in certain schools.

There are not enough stopping places for Travellers and Roma; some live in unacceptable conditions; in general, they face a hostile climate of opinion. Part of the population expresses doubts about Muslims’ real willingness, and even their ability, to “respect French values”. The debate on the prohibition of the niqab has increased feelings of discrimination among Muslims and may result in further excluding some Muslim women from society.

Certain politicians exploit racist and xenophobic stereotypes. Some of the measures intended to promote integration, such as the reception and integration contracts and the integration tests to which prospective immigrants are subjected before travelling to France, could have counter-productive effects. The Government’s stated aim to have a fixed number of illegal immigrants removed from the territory has led to excesses. There is widespread suspicion that non-citizens engage in fraud to obtain residence permits and access to rights.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, among which the following three will be revisited in two years’ time:

The report, including Government observations, is available at: www.coe.int/ecri

ECRI is an independent human rights body of the Council of Europe, which monitors problems of racism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states.

Stephanie Schmölzer, ECRI Secretariat, tel: +33 388 41 3240; Stephanie.schmoelzer@coe.int
Henriette Girard, Council of Europe Press Officer, tel: +33 388 41 2141; henriette.girard@coe.int