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France’s Le Pen Calls for Foreign Children to be Denied Free Education

An Appalling Proposal by the Leader of the Far-Right National Front

On Thursday, Marine Le Pen took her xenophobic and discriminatory discourse a step further – espousing anti-equality and anti-rights positions that reject core values of the French constitutional and political system.

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader, delivers a statement on U.S. election results at the party headquarters in Nanterre, France, November 9, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

According to Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front party in the 2017 French presidential elections, all children should not enjoy equal rights, and some children living on French territory should not have access to free education and health care. For her, migrant children whose parents’ status has not been regularized in France do not deserve to enjoy these fundamental rights. If Le Pen were president, these children would be discriminated against solely on the basis of their parents’ administrative status.

This proposal not only goes against all common values and the principles of equality of the French Republic, but is also a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which France was one of the first countries to sign. In addition, it contradicts the French Constitution, which provides in its preamble that “the organization of free and secular public education at all levels is the State’s duty.” Two ministerial circulars from 1984 and 1991 reaffirm this, stating respectively that residence permits of parents and guardians should not be requested of children when they enrol, and that no discrimination is allowed regarding the admission of foreign children to school.

By rejecting this fundamental principle, Le Pen is openly calling for discrimination against children. Depriving children of their right to education and health will not resolve unemployment or the social insecurity with which a large part of the French population is confronted. It risks worsening them. Demagogic discourses such as those of Le Pen are dangerous and take attention away from the real problems.

When 65.8 million people around the world have had to flee their homes because of armed conflict and persecution, France’s leaders should be doing the opposite of Le Pen’s proposals and increasing protection for the most vulnerable children in France and beyond. 

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