News

    Critics Complain About Lack of Change One Year After French Riots

    Lisa Bryant

    France is marking the first anniversary of rioting in the immigrant-heavy suburbs of Paris and there are worries the violence will occur again. The French government promised a series of measures to tackle the causes of last year's three weeks of unrest, but from the Paris suburb of Sevran, Lisa Bryant reports that critics argue little has changed.

    Standing next to a sack of West African music CDs, Ricardo Elumbu watched the steady flow of commuters hurrying into the grimy train station at Sevran, a 20-minute ride from downtown Paris. Yellow leaves floated through the warm air, softening the edges of the towns cheerless housing projects where small groups of residents, most of them Africans, gathered outside to chat.

    Elumbu took a break from trying to sell his CDs to talk to a reporter about what has changed in Sevran, a year after the riots. The answer according to Elumbu, a native Congolese, is not very much.

    "There's no security in Sevran," Elumbu says. "For a few weeks after the riots, things calmed down. But then the police left and the youths started causing trouble again."

    On Friday, residents of the nearby suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois staged a silent march commemorating the anniversary of the deaths of two African youths, who were reportedly fleeing police and accidentally electrocuted while hiding in an electrical power station. Their deaths unleashed three weeks of rioting across France. Roving gangs of youths burned thousands of cars, hundreds of buildings and clashed nightly with police.

    Now, there are signs the violence is returning. Youngsters set several buses on fire around the Paris suburbs this week, after forcing passengers out, in one case at gunpoint. Other gangs attacked police with tear gas, sticks and rocks.

    The French government has dispatched hundreds of riot police to the suburbs to prevent more unrest in the coming days. And French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has vowed to crack down on those who carried out the bus attacks.

    As he showed a reporter around Sevran, Deputy Mayor Lakdar Femmami pointed out some of the targets of last year's violence, including an historic building that was set on fire. He predicted more unrest to come.

    "I'm totally convinced of it for three reasons: It's the end of Ramadan, it's the anniversary of last year's riots and it's school vacation," said Femmami. There are palpable tensions. And there are already signs of unrest. Earlier this week Sevran youngsters clashed with those from a neighboring town.

    Located 16 kilometers northeast of central Paris, Sevran possesses all the combustible elements that exploded last year. Roughly a third of its 47,000 residents are immigrants - most first and second generation Arabs and Africans. Unemployment is high, soaring to 35 percent in some places, more than three times the national average. And Sevran has no lack of angry youngsters.

    "They're French, but they have one foot in their family's country and one foot in France," said Femmami says. "They're not loved in France and they're envied in their family's country. So they're rejected by both."

    After last year's rioting, the French government vowed to address what were considered to be the root causes: Unemployment, discrimination and poverty in these working class, mainly immigrant, neighborhoods.

    And during a press conference Thursday, France's conservative prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, announced new programs to give youngsters greater access to higher education.

    But critics like sociologist Michel Wieviorka say French politicians have not done enough.

    "They don't want to put money in the French suburbs," he said. "They don't want to help all these associations with social workers in the suburb helping people. And on the left, the opposition is also not very strong or interested in dealing with this issue."

    Femmami, the Sevran politician agrees. He says the town is still waiting for government reimbursement for the damage caused by last years riots. And, he says, Sevran has yet to receive a promised increase in funding for social programs.

    But with presidential elections only six months away, few in the volatile Paris suburbs are expecting bold new programs or reforms any time soon.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.