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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora