Integration Failures

How France Bred Terrorists

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    France has been hit by major Islamist terror attacks in recent years. The country’s failure to integrate the second and third generations of Arab immigrants is seen as one of the root causes.

  • Facts


    • The south of France is regarded as a breeding ground for jihadists because many second or third generation Arab immigrants living there feel alienated.
    • The failed integration of immigrants is a major campaign issue in the French presidential election, the first round of which will be held on Sunday.
    • French security authorities list a total of 10,500 people in France as being potential terrorists. The southern city of Toulouse alone has 300.
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France Election
France's home-grown terrorists: A failure of the state? Source: AP Photo/Claude Paris

The Jewish school of Ohr Torah in the southern French city of Toulouse resembles a military camp. It’s surrounded by a fence four meters high and topped with barbed wire. French soldiers guard the building around the clock. In 2012, Mohammed Merah, who was French and whose parents had Algerian roots, killed a rabbi and three children here in the first terrorist attack in France after 15 years of peace.

“Five years on the French state still grants us this protection, which shows that something isn’t right,” said Marc Fridman, regional spokesman of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. The south of France, especially the region between Toulouse and Montpellier in the southwest, is seen as a breeding ground for terrorism. More than half the country’s anti-terrorism raids take place here.

But the spate of attacks that have hit France since 2012, haven’t been confined to this region. Paris saw atrocities in January and November 2015, and last July a Tunisian-born devotee of Islamic State killed 86 people in the southern city of Nice when he drove his truck along a seafront promenade.

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