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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:18 GMT
France 'needs ethnic statistics'
French firemen putting out a fire in Lyon
Violence across France has been abating in recent days
French Equal Opportunities Minister Azouz Begag has urged the government to overturn a ban on collecting data based on ethnicity or religion.

Government bodies and private companies are barred from gathering such data - which is deemed potentially divisive.

But Mr Begag told Le Figaro newspaper it was important to assess the presence of minorities in various professions.

Job discrimination was a key complaint voiced by many youths who rioted in immigrant suburbs in recent weeks.

"We need to see France's true colours," Mr Begag said.

"To do that, we need to measure the proportion of immigrant children among the police, magistrates, in the civil service as well as in the private sector."

Azouz Begag
The place of birth of the parents and grandparents could give us a basis for action
Azouz Begag
Mr Begag stressed such surveys could be used to overcome racial discrimination, which he said lay at the root of the rioting.

He said he hoped to see more politicians from ethnic groups elected into parliament in 2007.

At present not a single member of parliament from mainland France is of African or Arab origin - although an estimated 10% of people are.

"The place of birth of the parents and grandparents could give us an idea of this diversity, and a basis for action," Mr Begag told Le Figaro.

Levels of violence in France's poor immigrant suburbs have decreased in recent days, following three weeks of unrest.


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