France should “overcome” a “taboo” and start collecting data on the racial and ethnic origin of its citizens, a former Prime Minister has said.
François Fillon, who served as Prime Minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the country must start collecting the information if it is to ever introduce an immigration policy that will satisfy its citizens.
“If we really want to take control of the politics of immigration, as I advocate, [and] allowing parliament to set each year the number of people that France can accommodate, we can’t have immigration that comes from a single part of the world,” Le Monde quotes Fillon as saying.
This would be “disconnected from our economic needs and our social possibilities”.
“We must know who we are welcoming, what they will become and how they will integrate,” he added.
French law prohibits the government from collecting any form of statistics regarding the ethnicity of French citizens. The law stems from the country’s secular constitution, which insists all government bodies be “colour-blind”, and tries to shun any form of discussion on race.
Even acknowledging someone’s skin colour or ethnic origin is considered deeply controversial in French society.
In 2007, the country’s Constitutional Court struck down a pilot measure by then Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux to collect such statistics. The court ruled the measure violated the French Constitution’s declaration of “the equality before the law for all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion.”
Fillon says, however: “It’s a taboo we have to overcome. Otherwise, we will deny reality.” He said that if the government did not act there would be a great divide between rhetoric and reality on the subject.
Immigration is becoming an increasingly controversial subject in the country. Recent polls put anti-mass immigration Marine Le Pen on course to finish top in the first round of the next French presidential election, with incumbent François Hollande finishing an embarrassing third.