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France must take key steps to tackle racial discrimination: Rights watchdog

French riot police forces detain a protester during a rally as part of the 'Black Lives Matter' worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, on Place de la Republique in Paris on June 13, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

France’s human rights watchdog has urged authorities to take necessary measures in order to tackle racial discrimination in the country which has become a “systemic element" of French society.

France's Defender of Rights, Jacques Toubon, said in a report published on Monday that the entire system is to blame for discrimination which is affecting the lives of millions of people and their fundamental rights in the country.

"People with foreign origins, or perceived of having them, are disadvantaged in terms of access to jobs or housing," Toubon said, adding that “they are more exposed to joblessness, poverty, poor housing, police ID checks, poor health and educational inequality.”

He further proposed the creation of a "discrimination observatory" in order to better monitor the situation in the country and to document alleged cases, as well as to organize national “testing” operations to uncover racial discrimination in hiring, housing and in business.

Toubon also suggested that legal authorities should make it easier to prove discrimination cases in court and ensure "dissuasive" penalties.

Monday’s report comes as Human Rights Watch said earlier this month that France should halt identity checks by the police that are abusive and discriminatory, following angry protests over alleged racism in the security forces.

France's police forces vehemently reject allegations of institutionalized racism, saying that while there have been problems they are down to individuals.

In a televised address this month, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed an "uncompromising" fight against racism, acknowledging that "the name, the address, the color of the skin" can affect a person's chances in life.

France has seen a series of protests against racism and allegations of police violence against members of the Black community and ethnic minorities.

Protests have been taking place around the world against racism and police brutality following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in the United States last month.

The outpouring of emotion from Floyd's death has resonated in France, in particular in deprived city suburbs where accusations of brutal, racist treatment of residents of often immigrant background by French police remain largely unaddressed.

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