• France's news in English

'Concentrate' Roma in 'camps': far-right runner

Joshua Melvin · 4 Mar 2014, 13:26

Published: 04 Mar 2014 13:26 GMT+01:00

In a blog posting, the top candidate on the National Front’s electoral list in Paris’s posh 6th arrondissement lashed out at the presence of Roma people in his district and offered up a solution that has caused outrage among anti-racism campaigners.

Paul-Marie Coûteaux, a candidate for Marine Le Pen's "FN-Rassemblement Blue Marine" party, wrote in his February 19th post: “But what can the Minister of the Interior do--apart from concentrating these foreign people in camps--where life would undoubtedly be so below what they counted on that they would prefer to flee such inhospitable territory?”

The comments were naturally seized upon by ant-racism campaigners in a country which has often been criticized for its policy of mass deportations of Roma, which reached record levels last year.

In a statement SOS Racism denounced "Coûteaux's "vile words" and announced it would press charges of racism in the coming days "in light of the severity and wretchedness of this anti-republican text." 

His words also provoked outrage among Twitter users. "Apart from this the National Front are not racist hey? Paul-Marie Coûteaux wants to replay the night of the long knives," wrote one of the many tweeters who compared his words to Hitler's policies.


After the fallout Coûteaux tried to explain the comments when reached by AFP.

“There is no point in this text where I call for the construction of camps, barbwire. It’s in the form of a question,” Couteaux told the press agency. For their part the National Front blamed the press for provoking the controversy.

National Front election threat

The ensuing anger his comments drew online and in the French press came just weeks before municipal elections are to be held across the country.

There are concerns the National Front, with its anti-immigrant and anti-Europe stance, could put up a strong showing as it attempts to continue its recent march towards mainstream power.

Party head Marine Le Pen has been desperately trying to build a more palatable image for the party. The party, once universally regarded as anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic, has undergone a project of "dédiabolisation" ("un-demonizing") since Le Pen took over as leader in 2011.

She is frequently quoted and interviewed by major French news outlets and has worn some of the edges off the party founded by her father, extreme right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen.

However, her efforts are regularly challenged by National Front members or affiliates who have a tendency to unleash offensive gaffes in public. 

'I'd prefer to see her hanging from a tree'

In October Anne-Sophie Leclere, who was due to run on the party’s ticket in the northern French region of Ardennes in March, was suspended by the party after comparing Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is black, to a monkey in a Facebook post.

The post included a photo montage of a baby monkey, with the caption “18 months”, next to an image of Taubira with “now” written below it. Leclere attempted to explain the post to a TV news reporter.

“Honestly, she’s a wild animal, coming on TV with that devil’s smile,” Leclere told France TV.

“I’d prefer to see her swinging from a tree than in government,” she added, denying that she or the photo were racist, claiming, “I have friends who are black.”

Only last month another National Front candidate was barred from running for election after it was discovered he had a tatoo honouring a unit of Hitler's SS division that operated in France.

Critics say this type of incident and the words of candidates such as Coûteaux reveal the true colours of the National Front's members.

"Concentrating Roma in camps,... yes the National Front has changed... or not! It's the same old shop, again and again," Tweeted Damien Toumi.



Despite the many pitfalls of trying to rein in extremist candidates, Le Pen’s efforts have paid some dividends.

A public opinion poll released last month showed 34 percent of French people agreed with the National Front’s ideas, which was it’s highest rates of acceptance since the mid-1980s.

Related articles

For more news from France, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Rankings: France not just about quality of life
Skyscrapers at the business district of La Défense, west of Paris. Photo: AFP

Rankings: France not just about quality of life

1 minute ago

A look at how France shapes up in dozens of global surveys has revealed the country is doing surprisingly well in areas it is often seen as lagging behind.

France seals €10 billion of deals with Saudis
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (R) and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L) arrive for a meeting in the Saudi Capital Riyadh on October 13, 2015. Photo: AFP

France seals €10 billion of deals with Saudis

1 hour ago

France on Tuesday announced a series of deals worth €10 billion ($11.4 billion) with Saudi Arabia, during a visit by Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

French funfair workers block roads in protest
The roads were blocked in the northern French town of Rouen. Photo: AFP

French funfair workers block roads in protest

2 hours ago

There were severe traffic delays in northern France on Tuesday as fairground entertainers protested by setting up burning blockades at the entrances to several city centres.

Some truths about immigration in France
Net migration to France slows as thousands leave. Photo: AFP

Some truths about immigration in France

3 hours ago

New figures were released on Tuesday which shed light on the flow of migration to and from France. Here’s a look at how many are leaving, how many are arriving, and the percentage of foreigners in France.

Paris Uber drivers protest fare reductions
Uber drivers gather for a peaceful protest on the Place de la Porte Maillot in Paris. Photo: AFP

Paris Uber drivers protest fare reductions

4 hours ago

Drivers from ride-booking service Uber held a protest in Paris on Tuesday over their company's decision to reduce passenger fares by 20 percent as a result of competition.

French football
Cissé held over Valbuena sex tape blackmail plot
Mathieu Valbuena left and Djibril Cissé on the right. Photo: AFP

Cissé held over Valbuena sex tape blackmail plot

5 hours ago

Former Liverpool footballer Djibril Cissé was one of four people arrested by French police on Tuesday in connection with a plot to blackmail French international Mathieu Valbuena over a possible sex tape.

Paris Terror Attacks
Jewish store gunman was sent instructions
Amedy Coulibaly, seen here in his posthumous video. Photo: AFP

Jewish store gunman was sent instructions

6 hours ago

Amédy Coulibaly the gunman who killed four in a siege at a Jewish supermarket in Paris was sent an email with instructions and advice by an unknown sender, the probe into the January terrorist attacks has revealed.

'Lucky' couple to spend night in Paris Catacombs
Fancy spending a night among the dead underneath the streets of Paris?

'Lucky' couple to spend night in Paris Catacombs

7 hours ago

For Halloween, the home rental website Airbnb is offering brave travellers a night in the sprawling tunnels filled with skulls and bones that is one of Paris's most popular -- and ghoulish -- attractions

Opinion - France's veil ban
Burqa ban five years on - 'We created a monster'
Has France's so-called burqa ban been successful? Not for some critics. Photo: AFP

Burqa ban five years on - 'We created a monster'

22 hours ago

Exactly five years after France's controversial burqa-ban was adopted, a professor who has spent years studying its impact tells The Local it has been a "complete failure" and even helped create a real threat to France.

Riviera floods
Park's killer whale dies after French floods
A file image of a killer whale at Marineland. Photo: AFP

Park's killer whale dies after French floods

23 hours ago

A week after extreme floods hit the French Riviera, a marine park has announced that one of its killer whales died on Monday afternoon.

Anger after hunter accidentally kills hiker thinking he was a deer
Analysis & Opinion
France's 'burqa ban' five years on - 'We created a monster'
Sea Park's killer whale dies after devastating floods in France
Ten stunning images from France in the autumn
Whatever happened to the once famous French university system?
Refugees enjoy Paris after escaping war
Analysis & Opinion
Opinion: Maybe France isn't completely doomed after all
How to find a graduate job in France
The pro-women French TV ad that was axed because it was too sexist
The secret to more travel for less
French bakers in trouble with the law for... working too often
What's on in France: Ten great things to do in October
French car makes it from Paris to Bordeaux... without a driver
This pic was enough to see a French beauty queen stripped of her crown
Analysis & Opinion
Opinion: Tearing suits of Air France execs isn't great for France's image
Opinion: France should follow UK and teach drivers not punish them
Paris: See how rundown Gare du Nord became one big disco
When angry French workers target their bosses (and it pays off)
French Riviera floods: Marineland park left under sea of mud
IN PICTURES: French Riviera ravaged by 'apocalyptic' floods
Looters arrested after deadly floods strike southern France
Eight top vegetarian restaurants in France
Indecent exposure: French cops drop trousers at British war memorial
jobs available