News / Europe

France's Anti-Immigration Parties on the Rise

An estimated 200,000 residents of Marseilles, France are Muslim, roughly a quarter of the population
An estimated 200,000 residents of Marseilles, France are Muslim, roughly a quarter of the population

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

France has one of the most diverse populations in Europe. But recently, tensions between different ethnic groups appear to have increased. Government moves to ban the full Muslim veil and to expel hundreds of Roma people, have reinforced the view that France is moving to the right. Marseilles, France's second biggest city and a major Mediterranean port, has a history of taking in people from around the world. But even here there is evidence of a backlash.

For many people in France's former African colonies, especially Morocco and Algeria, Marseilles was a gateway and the city's population is an ethnic mosaic.  Some have even hailed Marseilles as a model of integration. An estimated 200,000 residents are Muslim, a quarter of the population.

But like the rest of France, anti-immigrant parties have seen a resurgence here.  Analysts say government policies have fueled anti-immigrant feeling.  In July, France became one of the first European countries to effectively ban the full veil worn by some Muslim women.

The move angered France's Muslim population, the biggest in Europe. At Marseille's largest mosque, Imam Haroun Derbal questions the reasoning behind the law.

"Muslims are very well integrated," said Derbal.  "They've been here for centuries.  Of course, Muslims are being stigmatized by this law. Why do it? For a total of 200 people in France who wear the full veil, you want to pass a law?"

In addition, a project to build a grand mosque in Marseilles has now stalled.  "It's true to say that a part of the political opposition does not want this mosque," added Derbal.  "When I say the far right, I'm talking about the National Front."

The National Front spearheaded the campaign against the mosque.  In regional elections in March, the party increased its share of the vote to 20 percent with a campaign called "No to Islam." Stephane Ravier is a representative of the Front on Marseille's city council.  

"There is integration in France, but the only integration is French people having to integrate themselves with foreigners," she noted.  "In Marseille and all the big cities in France, the strongest feeling is that it is French people who are obliged to learn the culture and traditions of new groups who are arriving on their doorstep."

France's immigration debate also encompasses the Roma people, known as Gypsies. In August, the government approved the expulsion of hundreds of Romas to Romania and Bulgaria, sparking outrage from human rights groups and even the European Union. President Nicolas Sarkozy has defended the round-up as a crackdown on crime.  He denies targeting a particular ethnic group.

Thierry Noir, a political correspondent with the regional newspaper La Provence, says the debate over immigration has economic roots.  

"For the last 30 years France has functioned on a model of integration, but it's a model that is dependent on economic growth," said Noir.

As in many European countries, France's debate over immigration has become louder in the economic downturn.  In a period of uncertainty, France is debating not only its policies, but its identity.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs