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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Un retour à des stéréotypes que l’on pouvait croire dépassés »

by Interview by Ramine Abadie

Ethnics and Immigration in France: "A Return To The Old Stereotypes We Thought We Had Left Behind"

Translated Monday 29 October 2007, by Emma Paulay

Doudou Diène, United Nations special reporter on contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia, criticises the Hortefeux project.

Geneva, special correspondant

Huma : What do you think of the French debate on introducing DNA tests for family reunification cases?

Doudou Diène: I think things have taken a serious and dangerous turn. There are at least two reasons for this: firstly, the use of DNA tests for family reunification shows contempt for one of the most fundamental rights of man which says that the family should no longer only be constituted on the basis of genes but according to values (affection etc.) and choices. Furthermore, to establish a link between DNA and immigration is to give the latter an ethnic connotation. Such a vision has hitherto been reserved to the extreme right. French citizens will not have to take these tests, which clearly constitutes a discrimination. This is a serious matter. Despite restrictions made to the project, I feel that steps have been made along the wrong path, things are starting to go adrift and it could get worse.

Huma : So you think that introducing DNA tests is based on a racist policy and view of society and immigration?

Doudou Diène: To me, it confirms what I have already been denouncing in my reports for a number of years. First, we are witness to political orchestration of racism. The racist rhetoric which belonged to the extreme right, was its stock-in-trade so to speak, is now part of the programmes of certain democratic political parties in Europe and in France. As a Senegalese intellectual, I denounced both this and the confusion of ethnics with immigration. Racist viewpoints are reflected at other levels too. For example, in Sarkozy’s speech in Dakar when he said that Africans had not yet put their stamp on History. To me, this is going back to the past, to the stereotypes that we thought were behind us. Unfortunately, there seems to be a sort of order in this backward step…It corresponds to an increase in racism among intellectual and political elites in France. Recent legislation is a result of this sort of thinking.

Huma: What impact could this have in Europe and in France?

Doudou Diène: Immigration and family reunification will continue working and, according to the experts there will not be any major impact. But the principle of genetic tests resembling nazi practises, introduces a genetic difference between countries and populations in an otherwise globalized world. This not only stirs up trouble between civilisations but the principle of genetic tests could also be extended to the French population…This would be a potentially very dangerous step backwards. I think the red line is being crossed. On the other hand, I am cheered by the level of opposition demonstrated.

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