Hidden cameras show discrimination on Côte d’Azur private beaches, say activists

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-racism activists who secretly filmed private beaches on the Côte d’Azur are planning legal action claiming discrimination on the French Riviera.

SOS-Racisme sent couples of different ethnic backgrounds to exclusive coastal hotspots and used hidden cameras to record how each was received.

One couple described as being of “north African appearance” who requested sun loungers were told they were all reserved. A few minutes later a white couple who made the same request on the same private beach were given loungers in the first row near the sea.

Other activists say they were unable to make a reservation for sunbeds on private beaches if they gave a name that sounded foreign.

“With an African-sounding name, the place was full. When I rang back and gave a French name, strangely enough there were still places,” one told Le Monde.

SOS-Racisme has carried out similar undercover operations to highlight discrimination since the 1990s, but it is the first time it has tested private beaches on the Riviera. It claims one-third of private beaches at Juan-les-Pins and Antibes are discriminating unlawfully and two-thirds of nightclubs and bars tested in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence are operating an illegal selection of customers based on their origins.

“We have found discrimination can be based on clothing, the colour of skin, the physical appearance and the origin of the person. It’s unfair and intolerable living like this,” Karima Es-slimani, of SOS Racisme Nice, told France 3 television after the beach test.

The organisation says it is building up a file to submit to lawyers.

“We’re working with pro-bono lawyers who need lots of details in order to take legal action against these places. They will also use this information to draw up annual reports outlining discrimination by area,” Paula Cornette of SOS Racisme added.

“This situation is the result of a clear failure of the public authorities in outlawing racial discrimination,” Dominique Sopo, the president of SOS Racisme, told journalists. He said the organisations’ findings would be sent the police and local authorities. “We will be watching closely to see what legal action follows,” Sopo added.

SOS-Racisme did not name the private establishments it had visited in Juan-les-Pins and Antibes. The local tourist office and Antibes town hall have been approached for a comment.

A report by the National Consultative Committee for Human Rights (CNCDH) on racism in France, published last month, claimed French society was becoming more tolerant. It placed the annual “tolerance index” at 68 out of 100, the highest ever, according to the committee’s secretary general, Magali Lafourcade.

However, it reported that prejudice against certain communities – including Muslims and Roma – was still of particular concern.

The CNCDH says an estimated 1.2 million people are victims of racially motivated aggression every year in France, while there are only 1,000 convictions in the court for reported offences, often due to the reluctance of victims to report attacks to the police.

“We see there is a failure of institutions to realise this is a criminal problem,” Lafourcade said. “If there were many complaints, many legal actions and many convictions, we might hope the incidents would drop,” she added.