Study shows virus hit African immigrants hardest in France

As is the case everywhere, those at the lower economic scale, living in worse areas, and with more precarious yet essential work:

Death rates among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa doubled in France and tripled in the Paris region at the height of France’s coronavirus outbreak, according to a study from the French government’s statistics agency released Tuesday.

The INSEE agency’s findings are the closest France has come yet to acknowledging with numbers the virus’s punishing and disproportionate impact on the country’s Black immigrants and the members of other systemically overlooked minority groups.

The study was the first in France to cross-reference deaths that occurred in March and April, when intensive care units were swamped with COVID-19 patients, with the regions of origin of the people who died. By highlighting dramatic increases in deaths among immigrants born in Africa and Asia, the research helps fill some of the gaps in France’s understanding of its minority communities.

The topic has become an increasingly hot-button issue for French administrators in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. French researchers hailed the study as an important step but also said it only begins to scratch the surface of how the pandemic is impacting France’s minorities, who often live in crowded, underprivileged neighborhoods.

French Black rights activists have long pushed for more and better ethnic-specific data. Officially, the French republic is colorblind, refusing to categorize or count people by race or ethnicity. For critics, that guiding philosophy has made the state oblivious to discrimination and put minorities at additional risk during the pandemic.

“I’m delighted, and I know colleagues are delighted, because we have been waiting for this data,” Solene Brun, a sociologist specializing in issues of race and inequality, said. “But our enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that this concerns only countries of origin. It’s not looking at Black populations or North African and Asian populations in their entirety.”

Most glaringly, the study shed no light on how the French-born children of immigrants are faring in the pandemic. Still, its findings pointing to high death rates among their foreign-born parents suggest that minorities, especially Black people from Africa, may have disproportionately borne much of the brunt in France.

“They have very clearly been hard hit. That is undeniable,” said Sylvie le Minez, who heads INSEE’s department of demographic studies.

Mounting evidence from the United States and Britain pointing to greater COVID-19 mortality risks for Black residents than whites has increased pressure for French studies. Researchers bemoaned that their hands were tied by French taboos against identifying people by race or ethnicity and by legislation that regulates the scope of research and data collection.

“France doesn’t do ethnic-racial statistics, but we have the country of birth,” Le Minez said. “That is already very, very illuminating.”

INSEE researchers drilled down into data gleaned from France’s civil registry of births, deaths and marriages to look at the birth countries of people who died during the March-April peak of the country’s outbreak. France has reported about 30,000 virus-related deaths in all since the pandemic started.

The research findings were particularly alarming for the Paris region, especially in the densely populated and underprivileged northern reaches of the French capital. Compared to March-April of 2019, Paris-region deaths during the same two months this year shot up by 134% among North African immigrants and by 219% for people born elsewhere in Africa.

The region’s increased March-April mortality in 2020 was less marked among people born in France: 78%.

Skewed death rates were even more pronounced in Seine-Saint-Denis, the northern outskirt of Paris long troubled by poverty and overcrowding. There, deaths increased by 95% among the French-born but by 191% among people born in North Africa and by 368% among those from sub-Saharan Africa.

The study suggested that African immigrants were more exposed to infection because they live in more crowded conditions, make greater use of public transportation to commute to work and are more likely to have been among the key workers who continued at their posts when white-collar workers stayed home during France’s two-month lockdown.

Sociologist Brun said the study, by exposing limits in France’s knowledge about minorities, offered compelling arguments for broader research.

“Once you wedge a foot in the door, it becomes easier to open it,” she said. “What’s precious about this data is that, roughly put, it gives us a glimpse of what we could learn if we agreed to really look at racial inequalities in health. So not just immigrants, but also their descendants and even perhaps their grandkids, that’s to say all those people who are racialized as non-white in France and live with discrimination because of that.”

Source: Study shows virus hit African immigrants hardest in France

‘We’re Not Racist’: French Police Say They’re Being Unfairly Criticized

Generally, people and organizations are reluctant to state they are racist or that systemic racism exists, France being no exception:

French police say they are being stigmatized during protests in France against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

On Thursday, police gathered in front of precincts across the country and threw down their handcuffs in a symbolic gesture against what they say is unfair criticism.

“The police in France have nothing to do with the police in the U.S., and we’re not racist,” said Fabien Vanhemelryck, the head of the main police union in France, as he joined dozens of police officers demonstrating Friday morning along the Champs-Élysées.

Just days after Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, more than 20,000 Parisians defied a ban on gatherings during the pandemic to demand the truth about the death of a black Frenchman named Adama Traoré while in police custody in 2016.

The protesters said the French police, like their American counterparts, are endemically racist, a charge denied by many top officials in a country that likes to consider itself colorblind.

Mathieu Zagrodzki is a specialist on law enforcement and a lecturer at the University of Versailles. He says police violence in France cannot really be compared to the levels of violence in the U.S.

“French police kill from 10 to 15 people a year,” he says. “American police kill more than 1000.”

But Zagrodzki says both forces disproportionately target minorities.

A 2017 report by the French state civil liberties guardian, the Défenseur des Droits, says people perceived as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped by police than the general population.

“The difference with the U.S. and France is that in France I don’t fear for my life,” says Thierry Picaut, a black actor who participated in a rally this week.

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a ban on police use of chokeholds and said there would be zero tolerance for racism in law enforcement.

The police say they need the chokehold to restrain violent individuals and keep dangerous situations from escalating. Officers say Castaner has betrayed them.

Zagrodzki says strong police unions makes reform difficult to achieve – and he say French law-enforcement is in a state of crisis.

“The police paid a high toll in the terrorist attacks,” he says, referring to a series of bloody incidents in 2015. That was followed by the long and frequently violent “yellow vest” protests that all but paralyzed France for much of last year.

The strain on officers has been intense “They have worked more than 25 million hours of overtime in the past few years,” Zagrodzki says, “and the the number of suicides is very high.”

Source: ‘We’re Not Racist’: French Police Say They’re Being Unfairly Criticized

France should send home more illegal immigrants, says report

Interesting reference to Canada and recommendation to adopt a more selective immigration approach as per Canada:

A new report by the national auditor has recommended that France “modernise” its immigration policy and increase the number of deportations of illegal immigrants, saying it could learn from Canada’s immigration system.

The Cour des Comptes (in its role as an auditor of government action) says France’s immigration system needs an update.

The report examines the government’s efforts to ensure controlled immigration, respect the right of asylum and foster the integration of immigrants already living in France.

It concludes there is a need for “more realistic and tangible objectives”.

Asylum applications

The time frame for registering asylum applications set by the government has, for some years, been tighter than the legally binding time frame, according to the authors of the report.

The auditors said the government had deliberately shortened the registration time limit in the belief that a speedier processing of asylum applications would deter unfounded claims for asylum.

But the report singles out the so-called “accelerated applications” which are supposed to be processed within 15 days but in reality can take 121 days.

Expulsion of illegal immigrants

The audit judged the government’s attempts to send illegal immigrants home as “not very effective” and suggests “the necessary money and resources” must be made available “to increase the number of assisted departures of illegal immigrants”.

France receives fewer legal immigrants than other major western countries, says the report, which is critical of what it judges to be unnecessary bureaucracy for immigrants.

The auditor notes that in 2018, of immigrants granted residency in France, 75 percent were given the right to remain for one year but nearly all of those who then applied for an extension were successful.

To improve the system, the Cour des Comptes recommended more frequently granting residency rights for longer periods and allowing automatic extensions when reasonable.

Quotas

The report advocates a more selective immigration system, intended to fill gaps in the job market, and looks to the Canadian system as a model.

It proposes experimenting with a quota system to allow greater numbers of people to fill jobs in sectors in need.

Interior Miniser Christophe Castaner gave a lukewarm response to the idea, suggesting its recommendations were more suited to a country with serious shortages of labour.

“That is not the situation here. In France, we need to ensure there is work for those already living here, whether they are French or foreign”, he asserted.

Source: France should send home more illegal immigrants, says report

German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

Failure on humanitarian, ethical and institutional levels.

The best comment, with respect to the US, came from Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “We’re the two largest trading partners anywhere in the world. It’s like one of your family members (says), ‘OK you go starve and we’ll go feast on the rest of the meal.’ I’m just so disappointed right now. We have a great relationship with the U.S. and they pull these shenanigans? Unacceptable.”

As the coronavirus rattles the globe, governments and aid organizations everywhere find themselves in a race to acquire scarce medical supplies and protective equipment — but some say the United States isn’t playing fair.

Earlier this week, officials in both Germany and France accused the U.S. of diverting medical supplies meant for their respective countries by outbidding the original buyers.

As of Saturday, there were more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 60,000 deaths from the virus, according to a tally by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the most cases globally, with Germany and France at the fourth and fifth-highest case count, respectively.

On Friday, officials in Berlin alleged that the U.S. intercepted a shipment of medical equipment in Thailand from American medical supply company 3M and diverted it to the U.S., the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported. Berlin’s interior minister called the alleged interception “modern piracy.”

That same day, French officials accused the U.S. of redirecting a shipment of medical masks from Shanghai originally intended for a hard-hit French region to the U.S. by offering a much higher price for the supplies, The Guardian reported.

The accusations come as demand in the U.S. for facemasks surges, particularly after a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that all Americans should wear cloth face coverings in public.

The U.S. has flatly denied allegations of diverting supplies from other countries. But President Trump has also tried to force American companies into prioritizing U.S. orders by invoking the Defense Production Act. On Thursday, the president used the DPA to order 3M to stop exporting hospital-grade N95 masks to Canada and Latin America, according to the company.

“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way,” the president said in a tweet Thursday night.

On Friday morning, 3M warned of “significant humanitarian implications” of ending shipments to Canada and Latin America, saying the company is “a critical supplier of respirators.” 3M also said other countries would likely retaliate, reducing the overall number of respirators in the U.S.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed warnings against halting American medical exports to Canada on Friday.

“It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services including medical goods,” the Canadian leader said.

3M CEO Mike Roman also pushed back on the president’s threats to the company. “The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized retailing is absurd,” Roman said in a CNBC interview. “The narrative that we are not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country — nothing could be further from the truth.”

With no collective global effort to distribute supplies to countries that need them most, little stands in the way of global feuding and price-gouging. The Trump administration has come under criticism for the same issue in domestic markets.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that states with governors who are allies to the president, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, have had little trouble getting requests filled with supplies from the national stockpile. Meanwhile, some Democratic governors have struggled to get federal help.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly complained that trying to get federal supplies is like the “wild west”: states must compete against one another as well as other countries, with essential supplies going to the highest bidder.

Trump blamed New York’s shortage of ventilators on the state itself for not having more respirators before the pandemic broke out.

“They should’ve had more ventilators. They were totally under-serviced,” the president said Friday. “We have a lot of states that have to be taken care of, some much more than others.”

New York state has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, with more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday. The next closest state is New Jersey with just under 30,000 cases.

Source: German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

Immigrants’ occupational segregation in France: “brown-collar” jobs or a Sub-Saharan African disadvantage?

Unfortunately behind a paywall but looks interesting:

Large-scale labour migration is considered a recent phenomenon in most European countries; however, immigrants have been an integral part of the French labour-force nearly as long as in the United States. Numerous studies document Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ employment and wage disadvantages in France; however, few investigate an important aspect of Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ integration – occupational segregation. Using 2011 French census data, I examine Sub-Saharan African immigrants’ occupational segregation. I find that all immigrants are concentrated, but only Sub-Saharan Africans are concentrated in low-skilled work regardless of citizenship. Department-level regression analyses measuring occupational segregation show that after controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, Sub-Saharan Africans are most segregated. Control variables explain less of Sub-Saharan African women’s segregation than any other group indicating that they experience more discrimination in the labour market than even Sub-Saharan African men. Future research using longitudinal data is needed to determine if these results reflect a persistent disadvantage.

Source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01419870.2019.1686162?journalCode=rers20

France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

One of the better summaries. Too dirigiste IMO in picking sectors with rigid quotas rather than the greater flexibility of a points system that values both specific skills shortages and general human capital and adaptability:

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the “immigration plan” to the French parliament on Wednesday, where they re expected to spark much debate.

“We want to take back control of our migration policy,” Philippe said at a press conference, unveiling a series of measures which he said aimed to strengthen France’s “sovereignty”.

It comes after President Emmanuel Macron had signalled a tougher line on immigration in the second half of his mandate, arguing the government must stop voters drifting to the far-right.

“France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well,” he said. France received a record 122,743 asylum requests last year, up 22 percent from the year before.

Among the measures Philippe announced was a toughening up of the rules around how asylum seekers and migrants can access healthcare in France.

Asylum seekers in France can access vital healthcare via France’s Aide medicale d’Etat(AME). According to AFP some 318,000 benefit from the system each year.

But Macron himself has said he wants to end cases where foreigners arrive in France on a three month tourist visa but stay in the country and can access healthcare via AME.

The government also intends to toughen checks on those migrants who claim benefits, with suggestions that some asylum seekers have been able to claim two types on state benefits.

The government will also impose a three month “waiting period” (delai de carence) before asylum seekers can access the basic PUMa (protection universelle maladie) health cover, which is for accessible to anyone who resides in France.

Currently asylum seekers can apply to access the PUMa system as soon as they have lodged their application.

The French PM also announced that the squalid sprawling migrant camps on the northern edge of Paris would be cleared out “before the end of the year.”

He also reiterated a plan to double the number of foreign students in France to 500,000 by 2027.

Quotas for industries in need of migrant workers

But the measures drawn up by the government don’t just revolve around making France a harder place to be for asylum-seekers.

The government wants certain sectors, which are most in need of workers, to be able to recruit migrant workers. The PM has already said that the idea of quotas for economic migrants in certain industries should no longer be taboo.

Philippe confirmed that parliament would in future set annual sectoral “goals or quotas” on skilled migration from non-EU countries, similar to the systems in place in Canada and Australia.

The quotas will be based on a list of professions in which employers would be exempted from having to prove that the job cannot be filled by a French person.

But a government statement detailing the reforms made clear that the new caps on economic migration, which accounted for only 33,000 of the 255,956 residence permits awarded in 2018, “will not be restrictive”.

“The idea is to have quantified targets, or quotas,” the Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud told BFMTV on Tuesday morning.

“This is about France hiring based on its needs. It’s a new approach, similar to what is done in Canada or Australia,” Penicaud told BFM television.

The list of sectors in which companies will be able to recruit migrant workers, will be updated each year in order to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of employers in different regions of France.

Currently employers have to justify why a French citizen cannot be hired in a complex administrative process, which resulted in around 33,000 economic migrants being granted visas last year.

Construction, hotels and restaurants, and some retailing sectors have long complained of a shortage of people willing to take what is often low-paying work.

Information technology and engineering industries, by contrast, say France does not produce enough qualified candidates.

Penicaud did not say how many foreign workers would be granted visas, nor if an applicant’s nationality would be taken into account.

France also intends to put more resources into reducing the time it takes for asylum applications to be processed.

The government passed a law in 2018 aiming to being the average time down from one year to six months, but according to Le Monde newspaper it has failed to have any impact.

The French government also intends to push for greater European cooperation to secure the EU’s borders.

Macron has noted France had seen a sharp increase in the numbers of people asking for asylum since the 2017 presidential election and said much tighter  European cooperation was needed.

“There is not enough cooperation in Europe and we need to look at this migratory phenomenon and take decisions,” he said.

The French president, whose first term expires in 2022, is keenly aware that his biggest political rival remains Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party which has built its popularity on a strong anti-immigration stance.

“In order to be able to welcome everyone properly, we should not be too attractive a country,” said Macron.

Family reunification policies – where someone can gain the right to live and work in France on the basis of a spouse or member of their family being here – will not be touched, Philippe added.

Source: France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

France Announces Tough New Measures on Immigration

One of the better summaries:

President Emmanuel Macron of France tried to seize control of the issue of immigration on Wednesday, as his government announced steps to make the country less attractive to migrants while cracking open the door to skilled foreign workers.

The combined moves were a bid by Mr. Macron to wrest the issue from his main political challengers, the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen, which for years has skillfully used immigration in its political ascent.

With critical municipal elections just months away, Mr. Macron has shifted right and begun talking tough on immigration, especially on the perceived abuses of France’s generous social welfare system, hoping to keep Ms. Le Pen’s party, formerly known as the National Front, at bay.

Among Mr. Macron’s new get-tough measures is a provision that asylum seekers would have to wait three months before qualifying for non-urgent health care.

France to Fix Annual Limits for Professional Immigration

Seems a bit too government driven to succeed and respond to market needs in a timely fashion, in contrast to greater role for employers in Canada and Australia (and provinces in the case of Canada):

France plans to set annual quotas for professional immigration, fixing limits for job areas where the country lacks workers with the necessary expertise, Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud said in an interview on BFM TV.

The system will be “a new approach, a little like the approach that Canada and Australia use, it’s quite similar,” Penicaud said. The goal is to better match professional migrants and unmet staffing needs than under the current system, according to the minister.

The government will start talks with social partners and regions in coming weeks to determine the requirements, the minister said. France will draw up a list of job areas where it lacks sufficiently trained workers, and will offer work visas for a defined period and job. The new system should be in place by summer of next year, Penicaud said.

The number of professional migrants to France currently stands at 33,000 a year, and Penicaud doesn’t expect “great changes” to that number because of the new rules. “France will recruit according to its needs,” Penicaud said.

Penicaud mentioned roofers and geometricians as examples of where France lacks trained staff. The government’s priority remains to train 900,000 job seekers next year as well as young people to fulfill all available jobs, she said.

The minister said the decline in French unemployment is encouraging, and should economic conditions not change “too much,” it’s reasonable to expect the drop to continue through to the end of the year.

‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

Yet another manifestation of France continuing debates over the hijab, one unfortunately that has crossed to Quebec and its Bill 21:
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has weighed in on the Muslim veil controversy, recently reignited by President Emmanuel Macron, by publishing a caricature of him ignoring the alleged Islamization of the French society.

The cartoon – relatively innocent by the standards of the weekly – features a row of sad-looking women, donning Muslim veils, with Macron in front stating: “That’s not my business.” The picture is dubbed “Islamic republic on the move,” in a clear nod to the president’s party – Republic on the Move.

View image on Twitter
Not uncommon for Charlie Hebdo pieces, the cartoon sparked a fierce debate. Many accused the magazine of “drifting to Fascism” and producing quality content for the “far right.” Others, however, lauded the magazine’s ability to exercise the “free speech” and to stick to the traditions of the political caricature.

Muslim veil row reignited

The cartoon refers to the debate on the Muslim veil, an issue raging in France for years. The controversy made fresh headlines on October 11, when a headscarf-clad Muslim woman showed up at the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, accompanying her son’s class during a field trip. The woman was confronted by a politician from Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally, Julien Odoul, who demanded she remove her veil.

The woman’s outfit, Odoul claimed, was a deliberate “provocation” that cannot be tolerated in wake of the recent stabbing of four French policemen. The woman, identified as Fatima E., has filed a complaint over Odoul’s attack since the incident, which she said left the class distressed and traumatized.

While full-face Muslim garments – as well as other kinds of masks – are banned in public spaces in France, headscarves are fine to wear. Still, they are prohibited in public schools “in the spirit of secularism,” alongside with other explicitly religious accessories, such as Jewish kippahs and large Christian crosses. Yet, there’s no law in France that forbids women from wearing headscarves – or anything else they please – during the field trips of their children.

Ambiguous stance of the Elysee

As the France-wide scandal grew, with some calling for a full veil ban while other urged the Elysee to protect the country’s “secularism,” Macron weighed in on the issue, warning against “stigmatizing”Muslims or somehow linking Islam with terrorism. “There is a lot of irresponsibility among political commentators… Communalism is not terrorism.”

But on October 24 he managed to reignite the veil row, stating issue was not “his business” altogether – or at least that’s what was ripped out of context and widely publicized by the French media, including Charlie Hebdo.

“Wearing of headscarf in public spaces is not my business, however, in public services, at school and while educating children, headscarf issue is my business. That is what secularism is about,” Macron said, adding that in certain neighborhoods in France, “some people use the headscarf as a symbol to break one’s connection with the republic.”

Macron’s statement seems to have left virtually everyone dissatisfied. Some said it was the first time in the history of the Republic that its leader said a public matter was not the state’s business, while others said the country needs a strong president, not Pontius Pilate. Macron’s stance on the veil issue was itself met with a mixed reaction, as some found his statement too weak and pandering to the Muslim community, while others, on the contrary, believed it to be ‘Islamophobic’ in essence.

Source: ‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France

Sigh… Hopefully Quebec politicians won’t pick up on this, applying a ban to mothers on school field trips:

The debate around women wearing the Islamic headscarf has divided French politicians again, with France’s right wing Senate leader Gérard Larcher calling for President Emmanuel Macron to revise the law when it comes to religious neutrality in schools.

“It’s without a doubt a difficult subject,” Larcher said in an interview with France 2 Televisionon Tuesday night.

“But it is an essential subject, and we expect the President to federate and to make people of Muslim origin and religion feel just as much as part of the Republic as atheists, Catholics and Jews,” he said.

A bill sponsored by Les Republicans on maintaining religious neutrality within staff in the public school sector is up for a vote in the Senate, as early as next week.

“There is a need to discuss neutrality in public schools, without hate, without weakness. The subject has not been dealt with sufficiently,” he stressed.

During question time on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed the National Assembly, rejecting accusations that the government had an ambiguous stance when it came to religion in schools.

Philippe said the government preferred to focus on avoiding radicalisation, and school absence because of religious community pressure.

He was attempting to head off a new controversy over the question of secularism and whether or not to allow mothers wearing the Islamic headscarf to accompany their children’s classes on school outings.

Ruling party divided on issue

The French state and church were officially separated by law in 1905 to give form to the concept of secularism rooted in the 1789 French Revolution.

In 2004, the government prohibited the wearing of conspicuous religions symbols in public schools and banned the hijab, a garment that covers a woman’s hair but leaves her face exposed, from classrooms and government offices.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer stressed on Sunday that “the law does not prohibit women wearing headscarves to accompany children”, referring to a state council ruling from 2013.

But he also indicated that “the headscarf itself is not desirable in our society” because of “what it says about the status of women, what it says about our values.”

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye also weighed in, saying it was important to allow space for exchanges between women who wear headscarves and those who do not, as this promoted “inclusivity”.

Minister suggests Islamist provocation

Two incidents in the past week have lead to a further revival of this debate.

Last Friday, far-right National Rally (RN) minister Julien Odoul provoked widespread outrage when he posted a video on Twitter of him confronting a woman who accompanied pupils last Friday to the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte in eastern France.

Citing “secular principles” in the wake of the killings in Paris this month of four police staff by a radicalised convert to Islam, he insisted the woman, whose son was among the group, remove her headscarf.

Members of the RN then walked out of the chamber before issuing a press statement denouncing “an Islamist provocation”.

Fatima E., speaking to the press for the first time since the incident told France Info on Tuesday that she thought it was a joke until she saw how the students were reacting.

“They were really shocked and traumatised,” she said, and even though she didn’t want to give in, she eventually realized it was better if she left the room, only to be confronted in the corridor by another former member of the National Rally party.

“I was shaking from head to toe,” she said, going on to say that she now has a bad opinion of “what is called the Republic”.

Regional parliament speaker Marie-Guite Dufay, criticised Odoul’s actions, saying neither the law of the country nor the rules of the chamber prohibited a member of the public wearing a headscarf.

Dufay denounced a “surge of hatred” and what she described as “undignified behaviour” on the part of a lawmaker.

Fire station refuses school visit

Then on Monday, a visit by a group of school students to the main fire station in Creil, north of Paris, was cancelled outright because two of the mothers accompanying the group were wearing an Islamic hijab.

The director of Regional Fire and rescue service (SDIS) said it was a simple case of misinterpretation on behalf of the fire station chief and that it was regrettable that it had happened.

“The women were wearing a simple headscarf, known as hijab,” Eric de Valroger President of the SDIS told AFP.

“I think the chief was just trying to do his job, and apply the law,” he went on.

One of the women made a complaint to the fire service, saying she was “shocked” over their refusal to allow her to enter the building.

Valroger, who is also the vice-president of the Republicans party in the Val d’Oise region later said the woman had since spoken to the fire station chief and he had apologized and things had calmed down.

Source: New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France