Societal violence and discrimination against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem. Many observers expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.
Citizens may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the defender of rights. In 2013 the defender of rights received 3,673 discrimination claims, 25.5 percent of which concerned discrimination based on origin. Data for 204 were unavailable at year’s end.
Following the publication in November 2013 of a magazine, whose cover compared the country’s black justice minister, Christiane Taubira, to a monkey, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into alleged “public insults of a racist nature.” The far-right satirical weekly Minute’s headline read, “Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.” Several antiracist NGOs filed lawsuits against the weekly. On October 30, a Paris criminal court fined the director of the publication 10,000 euros ($12,500) for racial hatred. The Paris prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling. Taubira had faced repeated racist attacks allegedly linked to her advocacy of same-sex marriage. In October 2013 the National Front party suspended a local electoral candidate for a Facebook posting indicating she would prefer to see the minister “swinging from the branches rather than in government.” On July 15, the Cayenne criminal court sentenced the former National Front local election candidate to nine months in prison, a five-year ban on holding public office, and a 50,000 euro ($62,500) fine. The court also fined the National Front 30,000 euro ($37,500). Both parties were appealing the ruling.
The government estimated the Muslim community to be between five and six million persons, consisting primarily of immigrants from former French North African and sub-Saharan colonies and their descendants. Government observers and NGOs reported a number of anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. In its annual report on the fight against racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, released in April, the CNCDH maintained that 226 anti-Muslim acts took place in 2013. The Collectif Contre L’Islamophobie en France reported that in 2013 an estimated 690 anti-Muslim acts occurred in the country. The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith registered a 30 percent decrease in anti-Muslim racist acts over the first nine months of the year, compared with the same period in 2013.
On February 11, the mosque of Blois was desecrated. Worshippers discovered a pig’s head, several pieces of pork, and hostile tags on the site. Then interior minister Valls, now prime minister, issued a statement condemning the attack and expressing his support for the Muslim community. Authorities subsequently opened an investigation into the attack, which remained pending at year’s end.
On August 9, a man physically attacked a pregnant veiled woman in a park in Les Ulis (Essonne department) following a quarrel involving their children. According to the victim, the man told her that one does not speak to veiled women and hit her on the cheek. The woman was given seven days of incapacity to work and filed a lawsuit that was pending at year’s end.
Societal hostility against Roma, including many migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, continued to be a problem. There were reports of anti-Roma violence by private citizens.
In its April 8 report, We Ask for Justice, Amnesty International (AI) drew attention to the increase in violent attacks against Roma in France. AI’s investigation in Marseille found that, since 2010, the number of violent acts against Roma has increased significantly, including attacks perpetrated by the police. These acts included identity checks during the night, destruction of tents and other personal belongings in illegal camps, physical abuse, and the use of tear gas. Since 2010, police forces have dismantled dozens of camps in Marseille and forcibly evicted thousands of Roma. The AI report indicated that Roma in Marseille were often reluctant to report acts of harassment and violence because they were scared of police and in fear of more violence.
Local humanitarian NGOs reported there were approximately 1,200 Roma in Marseille who lived in extreme poverty in makeshift camps or squats and rarely had access to basic services, such as clean water, electricity, sanitation, and emergency services. In 2013 authorities reportedly evicted hundreds of Roma during the first half of the year from illegal camps; most of those families did not have alternative housing.
On June 13, residents of a low-income housing project in the Paris suburb of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine beat and kidnapped a 17-year-old Romani boy. The boy was found unconscious in a parking lot and brought to a hospital in critical condition. The perpetrators suspected him of attempted robbery. In a June 17 statement, President Hollande condemned the kidnapping and beating as an “unspeakable and unjustifiable” act that was “an offense against the founding principles” of the country. A judge investigated the attack as an attempted murder by an organized gang, kidnapping, and illegal detention. At year’s end, policy investigators were still seeking to identify the assailants.
The French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) has published several reports showing that approximately 10 percent of the white population in the country assert they have been the victim of “insults or racist attitudes” due to their color. This was particularly a problem in many sensitive urban suburbs. On January 21, the Paris Appellate Court upheld a lower court’s decision and increased the sentence of a man found guilty of a 2010 assault. The court cited racism as the attacker’s primary motivation. The white victim accused his aggressor of calling him “dirty white” and “dirty French” during the incident on a suburban train platform. The court sentenced the defendant to four years’ confinement with one year suspended.
Authorities continued to dismantle camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma throughout the year. In the first half of the year, the European Roma Rights Center reported the eviction of 7,235 Roma. According to data collected by the European Roma Rights Center and the Human Rights League, French authorities evicted 19,380 Roma from illegal camps in 2013, more than double the previous year when 9,404 Roma were evicted. Given the lack of housing alternatives migrants generally moved to new camps after an eviction. According to a government study, an estimated 20,000 Roma resided in the country.
In 2012 the government published a nonbinding circular aimed at providing more employment opportunities, better living conditions, and greater access to education and health care for Roma. Key measures included expanding the list of authorized occupations for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens and removing the tax on employers who hired Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. The circular also outlined measures that local governments should take before dismantling a Romani camp. In accordance with the law, a property owner (defined as a private individual or city mayor for public lands) may seek to evict an occupant from real property only after filing a request to the administrative court, which then rules on the legality of the occupant’s presence on the property. An occupant found to be squatting receives between three and 30 days’ notice to abandon the property; thereafter, the mayor or prefect may authorize an eviction. The government reported that in 2013 it spent 4 million euros ($5 million) to provide alternative housing for evicted Roma. At year’s end the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was reviewing the case of a forced eviction of a Roma family in early 2013.
In June 2013 the defender of rights sent the prime minister a report on the implementation of the August 2012 circular in which he noted increased tension between the inhabitants of the camps and the neighboring areas. He cited inconsistent implementation of the circular and shared his concern regarding the treatment suffered by Roma, particularly Romani families, placed in a situation of “forced nomadism.” The International Delegation of Accommodation and Housing Access (Dihal) reported on three main areas of achievement in the treatment of Roma, including the allocation of 4 million euros ($5 million) by the government to provide transitional housing to displaced Romani communities; the implementation of an educational continuity monitoring system in each school district for Romani children; and a significant increase in the number of work permits granted to Bulgarian and Romanian workers during 2013. As of January 1, the country lifted work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. Access by Romani migrants to the country’s labor market since January, however, did not improve their living conditions because of France’s high unemployment rate, the Romani’s lack of requisite professional skills and experience, or because employers were reluctant to employ them (see section 7.d.).
On July 7, the High Committee for the Housing of Underprivileged Persons sent the prime minister a report on the public policies related to Roma, criticizing what it considered an expensive policy consisting of dismantling illegal camps but was devoid of any effort to integrate Roma into communities. NGOs supporting Romani communities were critical of the government’s efforts to provide alternative housing for Roma following evictions.
In 2013 the government voluntarily repatriated 5,354 undocumented migrants to their countries of origin, a record decrease attributed by then interior minister Valls to the end of financial resettlement assistance for undocumented migrants who agreed to repatriate.
In October 2013 authorities deported Leonarda Dibrani, a 15-year-old Romani girl, and her family to Kosovo after the family had exhausted all available appeals in their asylum request. Her arrest at the conclusion of a school trip sparked protests by high school students and considerable media coverage. An inspector general’s report concluded that the deportation was lawful but criticized its handling. In October 2013 President Hollande announced that Leonarda could return to her school, but without her family. Leonarda rejected his offer. In October 2013 her parents applied for French residency through the administrative courts. On January 28, the administrative court of Besancon rejected the family’s application, ruling that the public magistrate handling the case had been right to uphold the family’s expulsion. On April 28, the family appealed the decision to the Nancy Court of Administrative Appeals.
During the year there were several statements made by public figures regarded by NGOS as demeaning to members of the country’s ethnic and racial minorities.
On February 19 a far-right municipal candidate in Paris, Paul-Marie Couteaux, wrote on his blog that Roma should be “concentrated” in “camps.” On March 4, Couteaux apologized for his statements. The NGO SOS Racisme filed a lawsuit, which was pending at year’s end.
In July 2013 National Assembly respresentative and Cholet mayor Gilles Bourdouleix resigned from the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) party under threat of expulsion. Bourdeleix faced public condemnation after a journalist overheard him mutter, “Hitler perhaps didn’t kill enough of them” during a confrontation with Travelers (an itinerant group of individuals) illegally occupying land in Cholet. Then UDI leader Jean-Louis Borloo condemned the remarks, while Interior Minister Valls deemed them a “glorification of World War II crimes” and requested legal proceedings against Bourdouleix. On January 23, the Angers Criminal Court sentenced Bourdouleix to a 3,000 euro ($3,750) suspended fine for glorification of crimes against humanity. Bourdeleix appealed the ruling. On August 12, the Angers Appellate Court upheld the sentence.
In July 2013 Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of the rightist National Front party, described the presence of Roma as “irritating and smelly.” In August 2013 the NGO SOS Sacisme filed a complaint against Le Pen with the High Court of Nice for “incitement to racial hatred” due to his July remarks. Further judicial action was pending at year’s end.
The law requires municipalities to provide access to education for all childrenbetween the ages of six and 16, no matter their citizenship or immigration status. Accourding to a July 28 study conducted by the European Roma Rights Center, at the beginning the year, in six Romani settlements across the country, less than half of the children interviewed were attending school. In 60 perent of the cases, local officials’ refusal to accept Romani children was cited as the reason children were not enrolled.
The law requires municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to provide a campsite with sanitary facilities with access to water and electricity. This law aims to accommodate Travelers by preventing them from parking on unauthorized sites. As of year’s end, municipalities had built only 50 percent of the campsites required by law.
The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs.
The AI report also mentioned a pilot program implemented since 2012 in the city of Gardanne, near Marseille. The mayor of Gardanne provided a field with access to clean water, sewage facilities, and electricity to several Romani families (79 persons total) to facilitate their integration. The results were reportedly encouraging, and supported by Prefect Alain Regnier, in charge of national action on homelessness and housing exclusion.