UN watchdog criticises France for resurgence of racism

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France is experiencing "a significant resurgence of racism" and lacked the political will to fix the problem, experts from the UN's anti-discrimination watchdog said Wednesday.

The criticism came as a panel of 18 experts from the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination presented a 90-page report on racism in France, the first since 2005.

After the session, the French delegation unexpectedly announced the preparation of a national action plan against racism.

Despite numerous legal instruments, France was facing "a notable resurgence in racism and xenophobia", Togolese expert Ewomsan Kokou said.

According to US inspector Pierre-Richard Prosper, the resurgence was due to "the absence of true political will".

The debate covered treatment of traveller communities and the Roma, the debate on national identity, the non-recognition of the rights of minorities and the hardening of political discourse.

The situation of travelling communities and immigrants is a hot-button issue in France, following a threatened crackdown by President Nicolas Sarkozy in the wake of recent violence.

Sarkozy's threat to strip foreign-born nationals of French citizenship if they committed crimes came in for particular criticism.

"I don't know what a 'French person of foreign origin' is," said Gun Kut, a Turkish inspector. "I ask if this is compatible with the constitution."

The panel would wait for responses from the French delegation in a session Thursday before drawing up their recommendations.

"France has been placed on the grill," said Malik Salemkour, from the League of Human Rights.

© 2010 AFP

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