French Arabs less likely to secure job or rental interview amid systemic prejudice

France’s human rights watchdog said the "entire system" is to blame for discrimination

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) poses with the annual report handle by French Defender of the Rights Jacques Toubon (R) during a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris,  on June 15, 2020. / AFP / POOL / Michel Euler

Racial discrimination in France has become so systemic that people of foreign background faced higher levels of deprivation, a new report by the French human rights watchdog found.

Many French citizens are suffering from greater unemployment, social insecurity, poor housing conditions and bad health as a result of their identity.

People with an Arabic-sounding name have to send more CVs to obtain a job interview while people of an immigrant origin have an 8 per cent lower chance of being in public office.

The research by Rights Defender also found that those with an Arabic or African-sounding name were less likely to get a first appointment with property owners when they were seeking rental accommodation.

Arab and black men, in particular those who are 18 to 25, report being five times more likely to be stopped frequently by police for checks compared with the general male population in France. A report last week by Human Rights Watch said French police had “overly broad" powers "to conduct discriminatory and abusive checks on black and Arab boys and men".

Rights Defender is headed by Jacques Toubon, a former justice minister, who said racial discrimination had become a “systemic element” of French society.

"Discrimination is not the result of individual responses, a few human resource directors who refuse to hire blacks or Arabs," Mr Toubon wrote. "It's the entire system that is to blame."

He urged the creation of an observatory that could document discriminatory behaviour and an operation to uncover racial bias in companiesand the housing markets.

Mr Toubon also suggested stricter rules for police ID checks and legal changes to make it easier to prove discrimination cases in court and ensure “genuinely dissuasive” penalties.

He said discrimination affects the lives of millions of people and their fundamental rights in the country.

Mr Toubon said that “people identified as black and Arab are subject to bias and discrimination practices on a systemic basis in their relations with police forces”.

Like many around the world, France has been hit by anti-racism protests since the killing George Floyd in the US. Earlier this month about 20,000 turned up for an unauthorised demonstration in Paris against the death of a man from Mali in custody in 2016.

Tributes were also paid to Lamine Dieng, 25, a French-Senegalese man who died in police custody in 2007.

Statues that represent France’s colonial era have also been defaced, a pattern seen globally with authorities forced to protect or take down monuments seen as honouring those involved in the slave trade or colonialism.

According to the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, a commission set by the government, France's Roma community also face discrimination.

A report last week said they had been unfairly accused of abducting children, were portrayed negatively in the media and had been violently attacked.