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Hollande condemns racism at long-awaited immigration museum opening

French President François Hollande and rights obudsman Jacques Toubon at the Musée de l'Histoire de l'Immigration
French President François Hollande and rights obudsman Jacques Toubon at the Musée de l'Histoire de l'Immigration Reuters/Yoan Valat/Pool

President François Hollande on Monday paid tribute to the role of foreigners France's history at the official opening of an immigration museum his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy avoided.

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At the Museum of the History of Imigration, which is housed in a striking 1930s building at Paris’s Porte Dorée, Hollande warned against what he called a discourse of fear around immigrants, as anti-immigrant voices, including France’s far-right Front National, are rising across Europe.

"Foreigners are always accused of the same evils - that they come to steal jobs from the French, to take advantage of undue benefits, even when the most thorough studies show they contribute more than they receive,” he said.

The same prejudices are being peddled in a new context today, Hollande continued.

“The new reality we have to face is the appearance of these theories in a seemingly endless crisis and apparently incomprehensible globalisation. That's where we find the new doubts in our ability to live together. Will France still be France? Will it be able to bring only the best and leave out the worst? This is the question that

troubles our compatriots."

The museum actually opened in 2007, the project having been launched by Jacques Chirac when he won the presidency in a second-round battle against the Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002.

Nicolas Sarkozy, who had just been elected declined to open it after the majority of historians linked to the museum resigned in protest at his decision to create a ministry of immigration, integration, national identity and development, objecting to the “national identity” element in the title.
 

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