The rift in French society was highlighted yesterday as a study found that a third of big companies discriminated against north-African jobseekers.

The review of 40 large companies, ordered by the government, showed a persistent bias against second and third-generation immigrants from French former colonies.

Racial and religious tensions have grown in France since a spate of terrorist attacks and a crackdown on radical Islam. The Muslim population has said that it is being stigmatised as France seeks to curtail Islamic influence.

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