Ethnic-background French flock to foreigner-friendly London

7th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Hamid Senni says he could not find work in France despite being French and growing up there, because of his north African roots.

LONDON, February 7, 2008 - Hamid Senni says he could not find work in
France despite being French and growing up there, because his north African
roots met with latent racism.

So along with growing numbers like him, he headed to London.

In France "the dice are loaded... everyone discriminates, even if it's
illegal," said Senni, 32, who grew up with his seven brothers and sisters in a
high-rise housing estate in France's southern Ardeche region.

He is well qualified, with a postgraduate degree in France and a masters in
business administration in Sweden -- where he got a flying start to his career
with mobile phone giant Ericsson.

But when he tried to get a job back in France -- where he was raised after
his parents arrived from Morocco -- his applications went unanswered, with the
best offer being to sell vacuum cleaners from door to door.

The contrast between that and London -- where jobs were on offer with
consultants like KPMG or Accenture, or high-flyer programmes with oil giant BP
-- was so stark that he decided to write a book about it.

"De la cite a la City" -- from a rundown suburban housing estate to
London's booming financial district -- tells a story reflecting reality for a
growing number of ethnic-origin French nationals trying their luck here.

Anrmy Bourhane is another. Trilingual, also with a postgraduate degree and
two years' experience in a company in southern France, the 29-year-old left
his homeland last December and has no intention of going back.

He had hoped to find work in Paris. "But it was a dream. The only jobs
available were temporary work in call centres. With my qualifications I wasn't
prepared to do that," said Bourhane, whose parents come from the Comoros
Islands in the Indian Ocean.

After a year of looking in the French capital, "I realised that
discrimination is a reality."

Within 10 days of arriving in London he had his first interview, and was
soon working in the sales department of an American company. After six months
he was in charge of an eight-strong team.

While in Paris his ethnic background was a drawback, in London it is seen
as an asset.

"Here people look at your character and your ability," and minorities are
welcomed, he said, noting how job-seekers are welcomed in the booming British
economy -- with unemployment at five percent, against France's eight percent.

Flushed with his experience, Senni's latest project has seen him set up a
consultants firm with a US partner. It is called Vision Enabler, and advises
firms on how to benefit from staff drawn from diverse backgrounds.

In France diversity is rarely seen as a priority in businesses, but in
London people understand that it can give a competitive advantage, said Senni,
whose clients include BP in Britain, and L'Oreal and La Poste in France.

Among the some 15,000 people who leave France each year to work in Britain,
many of ethnic minority start off in lower-paid jobs in catering or shops, but
then improve their English and move to better-paid jobs.

"In France if you start at McDonald's it's difficult to go anywhere else.
Here it's less of a problem," said Laurence Parry, who gives employment advice
at the French consulate in London.

"We get lots of requests, especially from young women of north African
background... many of them have studied for a long time, but after that have
only managed to get work experience in France."

London "is a big melting pot, there are lots of foreign-sounding names. A
lot of young French people come here to start their career," she said.


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