- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Germany has AfD and Frauke Petry. Britain has UKIP and Paul Nuttall. Italy has the Northern League and Matteo Salvini. But, in contemporary European politics, there can only be one true xenophobic politician. Today, Marine Le Pen reminded us that she alone wears that crown.
On Thursday, Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, announced that she would end free education for the children of undocumented immigrants. In a speech in Paris on Thursday, she said, “If you come to our country don’t expect to be taken care of, to be looked after, that your children will be educated without charge,” adding, “Playtime is over.”
She clarified that she did not mean to ban all foreigners from education — only those without documentation. She stressed, however, that all foreigners using the state education system must be living in France legally and paying taxes.
Education for all is protected in the French constitution.
“We’re going to reserve our efforts and our national solidarity for the most humble, the most modest and the most poor among us,” she said, a group in which she evidently does not include the children of undocumented immigrants.
In 2014, Le Pen also spoke out against offering Muslim and Jewish students substitutes for pork meals in school, saying, “There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.” And, indeed, French school children are already banned from wearing any religious clothing or symbolism, and have been since 2004. In October of this year, Le Pen said she would extend this ban to all public places.
Le Pen is expected to face Republican candidate François Fillon in the second round of the French presidential elections next May. Fillon, who has branded himself as the French Thatcher, has also warned about the threat “radical Islam” poses to the country’s values. He has written a book titled, Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism. Perhaps he, too, would do well to remember that Marine Le Pen is constantly finding new ways to make herself a cut above the rest when it comes to xenophobia.
Photo credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images