French Police in the picturesque Alpine town of Annecy are issuing notices to tourists wearing full face veils to remind them of France’s total burka ban in public.
Swiss newspaper Le Temps reports many of the tourists in question cross on day trips from Switzerland to visit the south eastern French town promoted as the “Venice of the Alps”. Last summer, however, alarmed locals complained to authorities about those tourists wearing full face veils, an act that remains legal in Switzerland but was controversially banned from all French public places in April 2011.
Annecy police have now decided to let tourists know that they are breaking the French law, handing out flyers in English and French to those seen wearing veils.
The leaflets are addressed to the men accompanying the veiled women as they are the ones who will talk with the police.
Although the burka-clad tourists could be subject to a €150 (£105) fine, Annecy police are yet to hand out anything more than the reminders. Instead they are advised to enter into a dialogue with offenders inviting them to uncover or go to a private place – be it a car, bus or hotel.
Commisioner Alain Favre, departmental director of public safety, said the ban is enforced no matter who the woman is, even if she is a Saudi Princess or claims diplomatic immunity. He defended the move saying:
“This isn’t a question of stigmatising or ‘burka hunting’, but rather about informing people that French law prohibits people from concealing their faces for reasons of safety. We have to be able to identify any one person.”
“It is very simple and, on a legal level, it makes no reference to nationality or religion. These tourists come from far away to holiday for the most part in Switzerland. We explain to them that once the border with France is crossed, the law is not the same. “
Le Temps reports that a local chocolatier welcomes the move. He believes it is degrading and humiliating to his employees to have to deal with veiled customers, saying: “you don’t know who you’re dealing with, talking to cloth, it’s not for me.”
The shopkeeper concedes the veiled tourists are “very good customers” but that “shouldn’t mean that we accept everything”. He concluded:
“France experienced the attacks… you have to be able to identify people, at a minum.”
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