A French public body was fined on Tuesday for selecting families according to their ethnic origin when allocating cheap social housing in the southeastern city of Saint Etienne.
French human rights activists frequently allege that people from ethnic minorities face discrimination in the housing market, whether private or public, but this can rarely be proven.
The Saint Etienne social housing body had created an unofficial computer database in which it labelled families as African, North African or Asian in defiance of French law which bans keeping such data.
Officials had written comments about certain buildings where social housing was available, such as "stop attribution to foreign families to maintain balance of building" or "possible to infiltrate a small foreign family".
The rights group SOS Racisme, the plaintiff in the case, said it was the first time in a decade of attempts that it had won a discrimination suit against a body that decides which families get a subsidised flat.
Criteria are supposed to include the family's income, number of children and current housing situation.
"We are pleased with this judgement of principle, it's an important victory for SOS Racisme," said the group's vice-president, Samuel Thomas.
However, he said the suspended fine of 20,000 euros ($25,720) was too small to reflect the gravity of the offence.
The discriminatory practices occurred in 2005 and since then municipal elections have brought a new team to power in Saint Etienne. The people who were in charge of the social housing body in 2005 are no longer there now. ($1=.7776 Euro)
Last Mod: 05 Şubat 2009, 10:56