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. According to the most recent data available, in 2014 the defender of right’s office received 4,535 discrimination claims, 23.7 percent of which concerned discrimination based on origin.
Following the 2013 publication of the far-right satirical weekly Minute with a cover comparing 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 magazine’s headline read, “Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.” Several antiracist NGOs filed lawsuits against the weekly. In October 2014 a Paris criminal court fined the director of the publication 10,000 euros ($11,000) for racial hatred. The Paris prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling. On September 17, a Paris appeals court upheld the fine. Taubira had faced repeated racist attacks allegedly linked to her advocacy of same-sex marriage.
In 2013 the National Front party suspended a local electoral candidate, Anne-Sophie Leclere, for a Facebook posting indicating she would prefer to see Minister Taubira “swinging from the branches rather than in government.” In July 2014 the criminal court in Cayenne, French Guiana, sentenced her to nine months in prison, banned her from holding public office for five years, and fined her 50,000 euros ($55,000). The court also fined the National Front 30,000 euro ($33,000). Both parties appealed the ruling. On June 22, the Cayenne appeals court cancelled the nine-month prison sentence. The court also ruled that the legal action against Leclere, filed by the Guyanese association Walwari, was not admissible.
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. The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing Interior Ministry figures, registered a 281 percent increase in anti-Muslim racist acts over the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2014.
On November 19, the National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith announced that, since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, 24 anti-Muslim acts were registered in the country. According to the government, 400 anti-Muslim acts were committed in the country during the year.
On March 24, two men attacked a pregnant Muslim woman in a public area in Toulouse as she was taking her two children to school. The men grabbed her veil, insulted her, and threw her to the ground, where she was struck several times. The woman filed a lawsuit that was pending at year’s end. In a March 27 statement, Interior Minister Cazeneuve condemned “in the strongest possible manner” the attack and reiterated the government’s determination to combat anti-Muslim acts.
On January 11, a fire of criminal origin broke out briefly at a mosque under construction in Poitiers. A few days earlier, on January 8, the mosque had been attacked by vandals who spray-painted “Death to Arabs” on the gate. An investigation was opened and the site was placed under police guard.
Following a December 25 demonstration against an ambush on December 24 that injured two firefighters in a housing project in Ajaccio, Corsica, a mob attacked a Muslim prayer room and tried to set fire to copies of the Quran. The mob also vandalized a kebab shop and shouted slogans such as “Arabs get out!” and “This is our home!” in the Corsican language. Corsican nationalist leaders condemned both incidents as “racist acts completely contrary to the Corsica that we want to see.” Interior Minister Cazeneuve condemned the acts as “intolerable” acts against a place of worship that carried the “odor of racism and xenophobia.” Corsica’s prefect, Christophe Mirmand, announced that he would ban protests in and around the Jardins de l’Empereur estate after riot police and gendarmes stopped a crowd of about 300 persons from entering it on December 27. Police detained two men for links to the attack on firefighters.
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 annual report covering 2014, Amnesty International reported that authorities conducted forced evictions of Roma, failed to provide adequate alternative housing to evicted Romani individuals and families, did not track hate crimes against Roma, and did not take into account allegations of discriminatory motives when they investigated reports of attacks against Roma.
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 3,947 Roma in 37 different localities. According to data collected by the European Roma Rights Center and the Human Rights League, authorities evicted 11,128 Roma from 111 illegal camps in 2015, an 18 percent decrease from 2014, when 13,483 Roma were evicted. According to the study, of the 111 settlement evictions, 76 followed a court decision and 31 followed a municipal or prefect order. Given the lack of housing alternatives, individuals generally moved to new camps after their eviction. According to a government study, an estimated 20,000 Roma resided in the country.
Romani migrants continued to experience discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 7.d.).
On February 17, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on his September 2014 visit to the country. The commissioner noted that Roma continued to be targeted and stigmatized by hate speech by certain politicians and in the media. They were also the victims of violence by private individuals and at times members of law enforcement agencies, in particular during forced eviction operations. The commissioner also underlined the urgent need to provide Roma access to health care, education, housing, and employment, and to conduct public awareness-raising activities to combat stereotypes and prejudices against Roma and Travelers. On April 9, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) noted in its annual report persistent societal tensions regarding the acceptance of certain minorities, notably the Romani population, and emphasized that anti-Roma prejudice remained high.
On May 15, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted a concluding observation that expressed concern on the treatment of Roma in the country. Among the experts’ concerns were the growing stigmatization of Roma and the increasing hate speech directed against them.
On September 11, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, expressed serious concern about ongoing forced evictions of Roma and Travelers in the country. He warned that authorities appeared to be making such evictions “systematic national policy” since 2012, noting the August 27 eviction of more than 150 inhabitants of a shantytown in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Al Hussein noted that failure to improve treatment of Roma “simply exacerbates entrenched popular discrimination against what is already one of Europe’s most deprived and marginalized communities.” He also noted that during the year both the CERD and the Human Rights Committee asked authorities to refrain from forced evictions if they did not provide alternative housing.
In 2014 the government voluntarily repatriated 4,477 undocumented migrants, to their countries of origin.
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.
According to a study by the European Roma Rights Center, at the beginning of 2014, less than half of the children interviewed in six Romani settlements across the country were attending school, notwithstanding the law requiring municipalities to provide access to education for all children between the ages of six and 16. In 60 percent of the cases, local officials’ refusal to accept Romani children was cited as the reason children were not enrolled.
Regarding “gens du voyage” (or Travelers), the law requires municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to provide a campsite for “gens du voyage” with sanitary facilities and access to water and electricity. This law aims to accommodate Travelers by preventing them from parking on unauthorized sites. As of 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, municipalities had built only 52 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. On September 9, the Ministry of Justice launched a website to inform and assist victims of discrimination.