French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne speaks to present the National Plan against racism, anti-semitism and ethnic discrimination for the 2023-2026 period, at the Arab World Institute (IMA) in Paris on January 30, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: Name it, act on it, sanction it.

That is the focus of a new plan announced on Monday by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to defeat long-standing racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of all kinds.

The four-year plan starts with educating youth with a required yearly trip to a Holocaust or other memorial site exemplifying the horrors that racism can produce, because “history alerts the present,” the plan says. It includes training teachers and civil servants about discrimination and toughening the ability to punish those denounced for discrimination.

Arrest warrants will be issued to those who use freedom of expression for racist or anti-Semitic ends.

Unusually, the plan includes fighting discrimination against Gypsies and Roma.

“There will be no impunity for hate,” Borne said, presenting her plans, including 80 measures, at the Institute of the Arab World.

Tolerance is on the rise, “but hate has reinvented itself,” she said.

“Our first challenge is to look squarely at the reality of racism and anti-Semitism and cede nothing to those who falsify history, who rewrite our past, forgetting or deforming some pages,” Borne added.

France’s government has had a succession of policies in recent years to grapple with racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination. Still, the estimated number of victims who suffered as least one racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic attacks was 1.2 million per year, according to the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights.

Social media and a rising far-right fearful of the disappearance of the nation’s Christian roots in an increasingly multi-cultural France have added new dimensions to the fight against racism. Generations of citizens from former colonies in mostly Muslim North Africa and west Africa have over decades given the nation a new face.

Kaltoum Gachi, a co-president of the anti-racism organisation MRAP, told those attending the presentation that a 25-year-old family member named Kamel failed in his long search for a job with an automaker — until he changed his name to Kevin.

Names, addresses and looks have long been a roadblock for people with origins outside France. Regular testing in private and public places of employment will be part of the new anti-discrimination effort, though the exact method is still being devised.

Borne said her plan will also offer victims of racism and discrimination the possibility to file complaints outside a police station, and in a “partially anonymous” way. She did not elaborate.

Borne’s plan dodged some sensitive areas, notably failing to directly tackle discrimination and racial profiling within the nation’s powerful police force.