World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - France
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||August 2011|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - France, August 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4954ce0223.html [accessed 14 February 2016]|
|Comments||In October 2015, MRG revised its World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. For the most part, overview texts were not themselves updated, but the previous 'Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples' rubric was replaced throughout with links to the relevant minority-specific reports, and a 'Resources' section was added. Refworld entries have been updated accordingly.|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Last updated: August 2011
France is primarily a mainland territory in western Europe, which borders Belgium and Luxembourg in the north, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in the east, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, Spain in the south west, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the English Channel in the north-west. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean is one of France's 22 metropolitan regions. The islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and French Guyana in South America, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean are overseas regions of France. The archipelagos of St Pierre et Michelon near Canada, Wallis and Futuna Islands in the Pacific and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean are French territorial collectivities. There are two Pacific island groups, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, which have the status of French 'overseas countries' granting them the highest degree of local autonomy within the French context. New Caledonia will hold a referendum in 2014 on whether to stay part of France or become independent.
From the end of the eleventh century France became progressively more united as a state and power was more centralized. French became the language of public administration in 1539, replacing Latin. Other Romance languages, dialects of French, and separate languages such as Breton, Basque, Flemish and German were widely spoken in their respective areas. The 1789 French Revolution had a strongly centralizing effect: provincial traditions were eroded, and local languages and cultures were banned. The French language was promoted as a means of inculcating nation- state consciousness. Universal education was introduced in 1793 with standard French as the language of instruction. Centralization was intensified under Napoleon and continued after his defeat in 1815 and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. The building of the railways and expansion of the canal networks in the later nineteenth century helped hasten the decline of regional languages.
French minority languages continued to be used, especially in oral communication between ordinary people. In the late nineteenth century there was a flourishing of literature in some languages, for example Breton and Occitan, which transformed them into languages of the intellectual elite, while their use in everyday life declined.
France acquired colonies in the Caribbean, North America and Africa in the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth century, exotic foods were imported from a number of different countries, including Africa, India and North America. State sponsorship of industries, particularly the manufacture of luxury goods, began under King Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. Quality standards were set. In the eighteenth century the French economy grew rapidly from mining, metal industries, textiles and trade. Nantes was the main port, and the centre of the French slave trade. Paris became the main commercial centre in the late eighteenth century. Poor harvests in the 1770s and 1780s led to mass poverty and the 1789 Revolution. Political turmoil and war in the next 25 years directed industrialization towards armaments, munitions and processed foods. There was further colonial expansion in Africa, Asia and the Pacific in the nineteenth century and in the Middle East in the twentieth century.
The loss of Alsace and the German-speaking part of Lorraine to Germany in 1871 was a major blow to national pride and prompted the determination to win back these regions. This helped fuel an arms race with Germany and Austria, led to alliance with Britain and ultimately led to the First World War. The return of Alsace and Lorraine to France at the end of the war, and the crippling war reparations demanded of Germany by the Peace of Versailles in 1919, fuelled German determination to regain this territory, which it did in the Second World War when it occupied much of France and the Vichy government kept the rest of France independent only by complying with the Nazi occupiers. Bitter reprisals were taken against collaborators after the Germans were defeated.
French industrial expansion in the nineteenth century, the war effort for the two world wars, and labour shortages after both those wars resulted in mass immigration, especially from North Africa but also from the Caribbean and sub-Saharan African colonies. Immigrants also came from other European countries, notably Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and Poland. Although most workers initially stayed only a short time, to be replaced with others, some formed permanent and growing communities. Colonial subjects had the right to French nationality, although Algerians had to renounce Islam and convert to Christianity in order to obtain citizenship, and most did not. The liberation of France's African colonies in the late 1950s to 1962 and France's membership of the European Economic Community led to reduced rights for former colonial subjects from Africa. Many came to France illegally. The conflict which resulted in independence for Algeria in 1962 was particularly bitter and has left a legacy of mutual antagonism between the French and Algerian immigrant communities. Some Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific and North Atlantic colonies have remained part of France.
France had the largest population in Europe, apart from Russia, until the 1789 Revolution. From then until 1999, the birth rate was low and population increase was mostly on account of immigration. From 2000 the birth rate increased significantly. Immigration continued at a slower pace on account of restrictive laws.
Main languages: French, Breton, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, German, Occitan, Flemish, Arabic, Berber
Main religions: Roman Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, Judaism
Minority groups include Occitan-speakers 3-6 million, Alsatians 1.4 million, Bretons 270,000, Portuguese 850,000, Algerians 1.55 million, Moroccans 1 million, Jews 600,000, Tunisians 350,000, Roma/Gypsies 700-800,000 (1), Italians 380,000, Asians 227,000, Spanish 350,000, Tunisians 350,000, Catalans 126,000-200,000, Turks 198,000, Corsicans 182,000, Basques 70,000, Flemings 60,000, former Yugoslavs 52,000, Germans 51,000, Poles 190,000 and Luxembourgers 30,000-40,000. Other minorities, including sub-Saharan Africans, are estimated at 200,000. (2)
The French Ministry of Culture and Communication recognizes 14 distinct minority languages and two minority language groups in metropolitan France, and 47 minority languages in the French overseas territories. The 14 distinct languages are: Western Flemish (extreme north- west), Alsatian, Francique (north-east), Franco-Provençal (south central), Corsican (Corsica), Catalan (south), Basque (south-west) and Breton (north-west), Maghrebi Arabic, Western Armenian, Berber, Romani, Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish. There are 10 recognized Oïl languages: Picard, Norman, Gallo (north-west), Walloon, Champenois (north), Poitevin, Saintongeais, Burgundian (north central), Franc-Comtois, Lorrain (north-east). There are six recognized Oc languages: Limousin, Auvergnat (south central), Vivaro-Alpin, Provençal (south-east), Languedocian (south) and Gascon (south-west). In addition there are four variants of French Creole in the French regions of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana and Réunion; four variants of Anglo-Portuguese Creole and six Amer-Indian languages in French Guyana; 28 Melanesian languages in New Caledonia; seven Polynesian languages in French Polynesia; two Malayo-Polynesian languages in Wallis and Futuna; and two Bantu languages in Mayotte.
The French revolutionary government adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789, which recognizes the equality of all before the law. This has provided the basis for civil rights in all subsequent French constitutions, the latest dating from 1958. There have been several amendments to the current constitution. In 2003 the French overseas regions and territories were reorganized. The constitution recognizes freedom of religion.
France is one of the most centralized of European states. Education, the law and public administration are all conducted in standard French. Minority languages are taught in school, but mostly as an optional extra subject. Bilingual education was introduced in the 1990s in Alsace and Lorraine, in Brittany and Corsica, initiated by private associations, taken up by regional governments and then supported by central government. The 1951 Deixonne Act, 1975 Haby Act, 1994 Toublon Act, 1995 regulations on regional languages, and the 2002 regulations on bilingual education provide the basis for the teaching of regional languages. The 2001 law creating a Conseil académique des langues régionales was put into effect through the establishment of 19 Academies of regional languages at universities in the regions concerned, one each for Basque, Catalan, Corsu, Alsatian and Platt; two for Breton; four for Creole; and eight for Occitan. In December 2006, the French National Assembly rejected an amendment for the constitutional recognition of regional languages. Article 2 of the constitution, which states that 'the language of the Republic is French' (and which was only introduced in 1992 prior to the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty) has constituted an obstacle to the ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (signed in 1999). The Constitutional Court found that some of the articles of the Charter would give specific rights to minority/regional language speakers, and were therefore not compatible with the French Constitution.
The 1905 law disestablishing the Roman Catholic Church as the state religion of France bans discrimination on the grounds of religion. It also allows the state to provide funding and tax relief for approved religious organizations. In order to benefit from this, religions must have a single representative body. Central or local governments own and maintain religious buildings constructed before the 1905 law separating religion and state. The government partially funded the establishment of the country's oldest Islamic house of worship, the Paris Grand Mosque, in 1926. In Alsace and Moselle, special laws allow the local governments to provide support for the building of religious edifices, and the followers of the Jewish, Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic faiths can opt to allocate part of their income tax to their religious organization. A 2001 law allows for the closure of religious cults under certain circumstances.
The 2000 Besson law obliges local authorities to set up stopping places for Roma and travelling people. The law was renewed in 2004. This law is the basis for access of the community to social, health and education services. It was followed by a strengthening of penalties for the unlawful occupation of non-designated land by the travelling community.
Citizenship and France's new immigrants
France grants the automatic right to French citizenship to all children born in France, but the right is conditional for the children of foreign nationals, who must be living in France when they apply for citizenship at age 18 and have lived in France for at least five years after age 11. There is a special identity card for these children until they reach adulthood, which allows them to travel in some other European countries. Foreign nationals can apply for citizenship if they have been living in France for five years, or for two years if they have successfully completed two years of higher education in France, or immediately if they have the right special skills to offer.
The French government actively recruited immigrants until 1974 on account of labour shortages. Immigrants were meant to be temporary guest workers, returning home and being replaced by others. But the right to French nationality granted to citizens of the colonies made it difficult for the authorities to send them home. The National Office of Immigration was set up in 1946 to organize immigration, but employers continued to recruit undocumented immigrants for lower salaries. By the 1960s over three-quarters of immigrants were 'clandestins'. From 1974 some illegal immigrants were deported. In January 1994 the Central Directorate for Immigration Control was set up to control immigration and the employment of immigrants.
Assimilation policy for legal immigrants largely failed in the 1960s and 1970s and the government adopted a policy of integration from the mid-1980s, supporting minority community cultural organizations. From 2003 policy reverted to assimilation with new immigrants required to attend courses on French language and culture in order to qualify for residence permits. Government funding switched from minority cultural associations to the assimilation courses.
The 1881 law on the press freedom prohibits libel and slander and defamatory speech and writing against a group of people. The 1972 Pleven law extended this ban to racist speech and writing against individuals, and created the offences of incitement to hatred or racial violence and of discrimination. The 1990 Gayssot law bans Holocaust denial. From 2001 the Labour Code bans direct and indirect discrimination in recruitment, training, pay and promotion, and dismissal. The burden of proof was altered so that the victim must present evidence of the likelihood of discrimination but does not have to prove it. The 2003 Lellouche law increases the severity with which racist and anti-Semitic offences are judged, but indirect discrimination is not taken into account in the Criminal Code. France created a High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality in December 2004. The new Labour Code, Lellouche law and High Authority bring French law into compliance with the European Union (EU) directives against racial discrimination and discrimination in employment.
As of end-2005 most jobs in the public services, state owned companies and regulated professions were not open to non-EU nationals.
Minority based and advocacy organisations
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 38 65 65
EBLUL-France (Bureau européen des langues moins répandues)
Tel: +33 (0)1 47 44 81 81
Website: http://www.france- libertes.fr
Groupment pour les Droits des Minorités/Minority Rights Group France
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 75 01 37
Email: gdm- email@example.com
Haute Autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité
Tel: +33 (0)1 55 31 61 00
Institut kurde de Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 48 24 64 64
Maison des Travailleurs de Turquie
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 57 76 28
Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP)
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 38 99 99
[Écoles en Basque]
Tél: +33 (0)5 59 52 49 24
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 35 36 55
French Turban Action Committee
Tel: +33 147 0084 41
Centre Inter-Régional de Développement de l'Occitan (CIRDOC)
Tel: +33 (0)4 67 11 85 10
Institut d'Études Occitanes
Tel: +33 (0)5 34 44 97 11
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Lo Bornat dau Perigòrd
Oc per Tot
[Non-profit organization for the promotion of Occitan culture through design]
Tel: +33 (0)6 12 25 42 26
[Web TV in French and Occitan]
Ofici per l'occitan
Tel: +33 (0)5 67 OO6 531
Alsatians and Lorrainians
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 72 60 37
Conseil Régional d'Alsace
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 15 68 67
Website: http://www.region- alsace.eu
Culture & Bilinguisme d'Alsace et de Moselle
Tel :+33 (0)3 88 36 48 30
Neues Elsass-Lothringen Verlag
Website: http://www.neues-elsass- lothringen.com
Office pour la Langue et la Culture d'Alsace
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 14 31 20
[Bookshop with Alsatian books]
Office de la Langue Bretonne/Ofis ar Brezhoneg
Conseil Culturel de Bretagne/Kuzel Sevenadurel Breizh
Tel: +33 (0)2 99 63 18 83
Tel: +33 (0)2 98 46 22 73
Institut Culturel de Bretagne
Tel: +33 (0)2 97 68 31 10
Tel: +33 (0)2 99 32 60 00
Website: http://www.ouest- france.fr
Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF)
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 17 11 11
Fonds Social Juif Unifié
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 17 10 10
Fondation du Judaïsme Français
Tel:+33(0)1 53 59 47 47
Mémorial de la Shoah (and documentation centre)
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 77 44
Alliance Israélite Universelle
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 32 88 55
[Union des Communautés Juives de France]
Centre Communautaire de Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 20 52 52
Mouvement juif libéral de France (MJLF)
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 37 48 48, +33 (0)1 40 30 18 60
Bureau du Chabbath
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 64 64 64
L'Unione Corsa d'Antibes-Juan-Les-Pins
Tel: +33 (0)4 93 34 41 78
Tel: +33 (0)4 95 60 24 22
Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli
Tél: +33 (0)4 95 45 00 00
Website: http://www.univ- corse.fr
Association Culture Berbère du Val d'Oise
[Language courses in Kabyle, promotion of Berber culture]
Tel: +33 (0)1 30 30 64 17
Association de Culture Berbère
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 58 23 25
Association des Travailleurs Maghrebins de France
Tel: +33 1 42 55 91 82
Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM)
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 58 05 73
Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France (FNMF)
Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF)
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 11 10 60
Sources and further reading
Calvet, L.J., La guerre des langues et les politiques linguistiques, Paris, Hachette Littératures, coll. 'Pluriel', 1999.
Chaudenson, R., 'Les créoles à base française', in B. Cerquiglini (ed.), Les Langues de France, Paris, PUF, 2003, pp. 257-68.
De Gila-Kochanowski, V., Parlons tsigane: histoire, culture et langue du peuple tsigane, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1994.
ERRC Country Report: Always Somewhere Else: Anti-Gypsyism in France, 2005, URL (accessed June 2007), http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2421
Giordan, H. (ed.), Les Minorités en Europe, Paris, Kimé, 1992.
Joly, D., Kelly, L. and Nettleton, C., Refugees in Europe: The Hostile New Agenda, London, MRG, 1997.
Loughlin, J., 'Regionalism and ethnic nationalism in France', in Y. Meny and V. Wright (eds), Centre-Periphery Relations in Western Europe, London, Allen and Unwin, 1985.
Stephens, M., Linguistic Minorities in Western Europe, Llandysul, Gomer, 1976.
Van de Louw, G., 'Le flamand occidental', in B. Cerquiglini (ed.), Les langues de France, Paris, PUF, 2003, pp. 107-13.
Biarritz Culture: http://www.biarritzculture.com/
Brenon, T.A., Le Vrai Visage du Catharisme, Loubatieres, 1995.
Bugue-Périgord-Noir (Occitan news and information portal): http://www.bugue- perigord-noir.info
Piere Cardenal (website of complete works online of the thirteenth-century Occitan poet and Troubadour satires 1180-1278): http://www.cardenal.org
Radio Lenga d'Oc (online radio in Occitan): http://www.radiolengadoc.com
Alsatians and Lorrainians
Plattweb (promotion of the Platt, Francique and Alsatian dialects): http://plattweb.free.fr/g/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=67
Al Liamm (Breton-language book store): http://www.alliamm.com
An Tour Tan (Breton-language radio): http://www.antourtan.org/radio
Breizh.net (Breton language and culture in Breton): http://www.breizh.net
Bremaik (online newsletter published by Bremañ): http://bremaik.free.fr
Gwalarn (directory of Breton language and cultural associations): http://www.gwalarn.org
Kervarker (dedicated to the Breton language): http://www.kervarker.org
Monnier, J.-J. and Cassard, J.-C. et al., Toute l'histoire de Bretagne, Morlaix, Editions Skol-Vreizh, 1996.
Skol Ober (Breton language correspondence course): http://www.skolober.com
Tonnerre, N.-Y., Naissance de la Bretagne, Presse de l'Université d'Angers, 1994.
Communauté Online - La Voix de la Communauté Juive de France (portal of information and links): http://www.col.fr/
Briquet, J.-L., 'Le nationalisme corse', Regards sur l'actualité, vol. 279, March 2002, pp. 27-36.
Chiorboli, J., 'La Langue corse à la fin du XXe siècle. Officialisation et conflit de normes', in C. Clairis, D. Costaouec and J.B. Coyos, Langues et cultures régionales de France. Etat des lieux, enseignement, politiques, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1999, pp. 169-90.
Fusina, J., The Corsican Language in Education in France, Leeuwarden (Pays Bas), Mercator Education, 2000.
Loughlin, J. and Olivesi, C. (eds), Autonomies insulaires: vers une politique de différence pour la Corse, Ajaccio, Editions Albiana, 1999.
Olivesi, C., 'The failure of regionalist party formation', in L. de Winter and H. Türsan (eds), Regionalist Parties in Western Europe, London, Routledge, 1998, pp. 174-89.
Ottavi, A., Les Origines de la langue Corse, April 1996, Accademia Corsa, IRL (accessed March 2007): http://www.accademiacorsa.org/langue.html
Rouquette, R., Le Régime juridique des langues en France, Paris, Université de Paris X (Nanterre), 1987.
Savigear, P., Corsica: Regional Autonomy or Violence? London, Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1983.
Savigear, P., 'Corsica', in M. Watson (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism. London/New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 86-99.
Thiers, J., Papiers d'identité(s), Ajaccio (Corse), Les Éditions Albiana, 1989.
Voce (online Corsican language radio): http://adecec.net/vocenustrale
Adecec (Corsican Linguistic Database): http://www.adecec.net/infcor
Silverstein, P.A., Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation, Indiana University Press, 2004.
Viet, V., La France immigrée, construction d'une politique 1914-97, Paris, Fayard, 1998.