Sarkozy orders deportation of foreign rioters

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The Independent Online

Four cars were torched in Toulouse last night, but the violence by gangs of youths in poor suburbs of French cities subsided, as arrests, exhaustion and boredom started to take their toll on the rioters.

A state of emergency, and new measures to help poor suburbs and alienated youth, announced by a panicky government on Monday may also have had some effect.

Some police intelligence sources and social workers warned, however, that Tuesday night's relative calm ­ "only" 617 cars burnt throughout France, compared to 933 the night before ­ might prove to be just a lull.

M. Sarkozy told French deputies that he had asked prefects to expel the 120 foreigners convicted of rioting. He said that all of them, including those whose papers were in order, should be expelled.

"For when one has the honour of having a residency permit, the least one can say is that one shouldn't be going around getting arrested for provoking urban violence," he said.

Human rights organisations denounced the measure as applying "a double penalty" against the rioters. M. Sarkozy has already been blamed for contributing to the riots by saying the "scum" on the estates that ring major cities should be "hosed down".

Messages have been found on blogs and internet sites calling for a concerted attack by suburban gangs on the centre of Paris on Friday or Saturday. Defensive measures will be taken but the threat to a largely unscathed capital is not yet being taken seriously.

On the whole, the riots seem to be following the pattern of similar, but smaller, outbreaks in the poor, racially mixed suburbs of French cities over the past 10 years. The ferocity of the violence began to subside in the Paris area several days ago. Copycat events by gangs of marginalised or criminal youths in provincial towns and cities are also now playing themselves out, leaving a trail of more than 6,000 burnt cars and scores of schools, gymnasiums, factories and warehouses ravaged by fire.

Interior ministry officials attributed the relative calm to the large number of arrests ­ more than 1,100 since the riots began ­ and the exhaustion of the rioters. The Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, will also claim success for his controversial package of repressive and aid measures announced on Monday night. A state of emergency, using a forgotten 50-year-old law, took effect at midnight on Tuesday. But only one town ­ Amiens in the Somme ­ has so far taken advantage of the curfew permitted by the law.

The aid package restores cuts in cash support to poor suburbs imposed in recent years and promises a job, apprenticeship or internship to every young person in France's 750 officially "sensitive" districts (where youth unemployment can reach 40 per cent). It also allows young people to leave school at 14, instead of 16, if they have an offer of a trade apprenticeship.

Most of the rioters are believed to be aged from 15 to 21, with some as young as 10. Almost all those arrested have criminal records and most are believed to belong to the violent criminal minority which terrorises the poor suburbs. Many ­ but not all ­ are the second, third or fourth generations of Arab immigrant families. Others are from African immigrant backgrounds. There is also a sprinkling of ethnically French and eastern and southern European youths.