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Racism in France
France > Basics > Crime > Racism in France

Though the self-proclaimed home of "liberté, egalité, fraternité", France seems not yet to have come to terms with being a multicultural society. Racist attitudes in the populace and the police are rife. A 1998 survey on French attitudes to race, commissioned by the French government, showed 38 percent of the population declaring themselves racist, double the figures for Britain and Germany. The mood altered later that same year when France's multicultural football team won the World Cup, but in April 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front National, an openly racist, far-right party, won over 17 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections. Though other factors were involved, the vote reflected a significant swing to the right fuelled by fears of crime, immigration and unemployment. In response, the new right-wing government seems intent on introducing tougher policies in all these areas.

On a more positive note, thousands took to the streets in protest following Le Pen's (short-lived) victory and the Front National received a drubbing in the parliamentary elections in June. The elections of 2002 also saw Christiane Taubira become France's first black presidential candidate, receiving 2.3 percent of the vote.

There's a long way to go, however, before France becomes a racially tolerant country, and for the moment being black or Arab makes your chances of experiencing unpleasantness fairly high. It usually takes the form of hotels claiming to be booked up and police demanding your papers, though abuse from ordinary people is not unknown.

If you suffer a racial assault, you're likely to get a more sympathetic hearing from your consulate than from the police. There are many anti-racism organizations which will offer support (though they may not have English-speakers): Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP. and SOS Racism ( have offices in most big cities.

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