AFRICANGLOBE – Black Railway workers were allegedly forced to not show for work when Israeli president Shimon Peres passed through Paris station Gare du Nord during an official state visit to France.
The incident occurred on March 8 when the Israeli leader was in the French capital to have talks with President Francois Hollande over the Middle East peace process.
Last Sunday it emerged that transport union SUD-Rail has lodged a formal complaint which accuses the country’s national rail company, SNCF, of ensuring there were “no Muslim employees to welcome the Head of the State of Israel”.
The union claimed SNCF management made the decision based on the assumptions that Blacks and North Africans were more likely to be followers of Islam.
The Israeli delegation arrived into one of the capital’s busiest transport hubs on a morning train from Belgium, and was greeted by SNCF staff and workers from luggage handling firm ITIREMIA.
According to reports, the day before the arrival a manager informed all station employees that a ban on Black and North African workers was to be enforced for the next day.
SUD-RAIL added in a statement: “We insist that SNCF publicly condemns these practices as unacceptable.”
SNCF at first attempted to shift the blame onto a “security protocol” issued by the French Interior Ministry and the Israeli embassy in Paris – both have since denied the claim, and SNCF have now said they will open “a full investigation” into the reported discrimination.
The allegations are particularly embarrassing to the rail company which has a history of collaborating with the Nazis during the Second World War German occupation, when it actively helped deport Jews and other minorities the Nazis deemed “undesirable” to extermination camps in eastern Europe.
France, one of Europe’s most diverse societies, is well-known to have race-relation problems – the informal ghettoisation of minorities in many of its cities reflects the apparent ingrained division.
Furthermore, France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, with around six million adherents to Islam living in the country.
By: Bart Chan