France to spend €100 million tackling ‘unbearable’ racism
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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced Friday that the government would pour 100 million euros into a major anti-racism and anti-Semitism action plan devised in the aftermath of January’s deadly Paris jihadist attacks.
The programme, which among other measures increases penalties for crimes deemed to have been fuelled by racism and anti-Semitism, comes at a time when acts of racism against Muslims and Jews have shot up in France.
"Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims, of foreigners, homophobia are increasing in an unbearable manner," Valls said in the Paris suburb city of Créteil, the scene of a brutal attack on a Jewish man and his girlfriend in December.
On Thursday the country's Islamophobia watchdog said anti-Muslim acts had jumped six-fold in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2014, fuelled by the January 7-9 attacks when Islamic extremists went on a killing spree that left 17 dead.
The Jewish community is also increasingly worried, with anti-Semitic acts doubling last year compared with 2013, prompting a rising number of Jews to leave for Israel.
"French Jews must no longer be scared to be Jewish" and "French Muslims must no longer be scared to be Muslim", Valls said.
And it is not just these two communities – the largest in Europe with an estimated four to five million Muslims and around 600,000 Jews – that are targets.
The Roma, a minority group that comes mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, are also discriminated against, according to activists.
Valls said the programme would include new legal measures as well as a clamp down on online racism.
Currently, racist and anti-semitic acts and comments are dealt with under France’s media laws.
They will henceforth be “written into the penal code” and treated as criminal offences, Valls said, adding that “any passivity there has been towards racism and hate speech online is finished”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)