French ministers sound off to British press

16th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 16 (AFP) - The wave of recent rioting in France shows how the country has failed to integrate its immigrants and raises questions of racism, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in an interview Wednesday.

LONDON, Nov 16 (AFP) - The wave of recent rioting in France shows how the country has failed to integrate its immigrants and raises questions of racism, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in an interview Wednesday.

"France has been going through a very deep crisis due to the crisis of immigration and the failure to integrate," Douste-Blazy told BBC radio.

"But there's also a question that needs addressing," he said, naming this as racism and xenophobia.

Douste-Blazy admitted France had a "real problem with integration", but did not want the country to follow what he said was a policy in English-speaking nations of allowing separate ethnic communities to develop.

"In the last 20 years, our main failure has been at school level," he said.

France has experienced three weeks of unprecedented urban unrest that has left 126 police injured, with 2,888 people arrested and 8,973 vehicles burned by rioters.

In recent days, the level of violence has begun to subside.

France's employment minister Gérard Larcher meanwhile Tuesday blamed polygamy as one possible reason for the rioting that affected towns and cities throughout the country.

Larcher said multiple marriages among immigrants was one cause of the racial discrimination faced by the country's ethnic minority population in the job market, according to the Financial Times online site.

Large, polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behaviour by youths who did not have a father figure in the home, which made employers more cautious of hiring staff from ethnic minorities, Larcher reportedly said.

"Since part of society displays this anti-social behaviour, it is not surprising that some of them have difficulties finding work...," the minister was quoted as telling foreign journalists.

"Efforts must be made by both sides. If people are not employable, they will not be employed."

France has suffered nearly three weeks of unrest in its inner cities, sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers in an electricity sub-station while hiding from police in a northern Paris suburb.

In all, more than 8,000 cars have been burned, businesses and public buildings wrecked and dozens of policemen injured in rioting carried out mainly by black and Arab youths. Some 2,840 people have been arrested.

Larcher's comments come as the French government tries to restore normality throughout the country and in particular its high-immigration suburbs using controversial emergency powers, including curfews.

The FT said Larcher's comments could "further fuel the debate" about the cause of the unrest and possibly outrage Muslim and anti-racism groups.

Polygamy in France is officially banned -- and punishable by a prison sentence -- but authorities tolerate the existence of an estimated 30,000 mainly African families in which there is more than one wife.

Visas were granted to allow thousands of women from Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia to move into the residences in France of the man and his first wife until the early 1990s.

Hardline former interior minister Charles Pasqua moved to stem the influx in the early 1990s but the government was forced to relax its stance following protests.

Now "second wives" who have French-born children or who have lived in France for more than 15 years, cannot be expelled from the country and are granted residency.

However, for polygamous families who came to France before 1993, residency is only granted if the two wives do not live at the same address.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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