The Associated Press reported that French activists said more than a third of temporary agencies agreed to conduct racist searches for workers excluding non-white candidates.

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Activists from SOS Racisme, a national association of anti-discrimination groups, posed as employees of a construction firm to 69 temporary employment agencies in the Paris area. Activists said their fake company was only looking to hire “European” workers, meaning it didn’t want to consider people of color.

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The campaign group said 39 percent of the companies agreed to “exclude” people on the basis of their race.

The French government said it would summon the companies that are being questioned.

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For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

“If there is no trace of this type of exchange, we can do what is necessary,” said one woman, who answered a call, according to the recording.

An employee of another agency was recorded saying: “I’m making a note for myself so I can propose the profile you want.”

“But I can’t say whether it will be color or that community. It’s very complicated,” she said.

Discrimination on the basis of colour, sex, nationality, sexual orientation or religious belief is illegal in France.

SOS Racisme said the 69 offices it called were all affiliates of major temporary firms in France with billions of euros (dollars) in combined revenue.

It said 55 per cent of the branch offices it has contacted have denied requests for discrimination.

SOS Reisme said about 6 percent refused to racially select candidates but suggested that the fictitious firm itself did so.

Although limited in scope to a small number of agencies, the findings highlight that anti-racism campaigners have a widespread problem of discrimination in some French workplaces.

Previous research has shown discrimination against job seekers from neighborhoods with immigrant populations or names that are not traditionally French.

The government’s minister for equal rights, Elizabeth Moreno, said such action was illegal and added that the companies would be called for a meeting.