Paris gets tough on explosive 'banlieues'

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

Car-burning, looting and stone-throwing erupted again yesterday on one of the tough estates in the soulless concrete wasteland south of Paris. Thirteen people were detained and one policeman was injured.

The disturbances, nearGrigny, were the latest in a rash of incidents on housing estates (known simply as banlieues) across France. Last weekend alone there were violent confrontations near Strasbourg and Mulhouse in Alsace, near Toulouse in the south-west, near Grenoble in the south-east and near Dijon in Burgundy.

Estates to the north and east of Paris were also affected, and a policeman was in intensive care after being shot in the head in Mantes-la-Jolie, a town to the west of Paris with a history of trouble.

With disturbances being reported nightly, "what to do about the banlieues" has become an important concern. But the authorities have been sending distinctly mixed signals.

Last week President Jacques Chirac talked about the need to "extend a helping hand", provide more jobs and services and do nothing that might be construed as a "provocation".

His remarks contrasted with his call in the election campaign for the elimination of "no-go areas" and were hailed as evidence that he had learned that the seething banlieues could not be subdued by force.

On Monday, however, the Interior Ministry's director of public security, Daniel Duglery, announced new, tougher policing for the estates.

Special units were being trained and equipped with fast cars to deal with car theft and joy-riding and with bullet-proof vests and rubber bullets.

In another sign that the banlieues were in for a hard time, the judiciary announced an investigation into an "Afghan terrorist connection", citing evidence that "dozens" of young people from certain estates had received terrorist training in Afghanistan.

The authorities insist the outbreaks derive from the same factors as earlier violence: the preponderance of young people on the estates, high unemployment and racial tension caused by high concentrations of North African immigrants.

Many recent incidents, however, have specific causes, which testify to policing which is seen as too heavy-handed.

The disturbances at Grigny are said to have begun when youths tried to attack a flat occupied by someone they believed was responsible for the death of a youth from the Maghreb. The presumed culprit was in custody, but they did not know that. There have been several instances of groups of youths applying their own rough justice where they think the police have failed.

The incident at Mantes-la-Jolie appears to have been the result of police intervening to stop a hashish deal. Other incidents have begun as gang- fights or joy-riding which the police tried to halt.

There is a further explanation which is rarely mentioned by officials: the mild autumn, which has allowed street life to continue longer than usual, and the heightened police activity dictated by the anti-terrorist alert codenamed "Vigipirate".

From the first terrorist bomb on 25 July, when the chief suspects were identified as being of "North African appearance", it was almost exclusively young men of that description who were stopped and searched. After the identification of Khaled Kelkal as the prime suspect in September, the estates themselves, at least those with big North African populations, were subject to early-morning raids and night-time patrols.

With "Vigipirate" now in effect for two months, and Kelkal dead, shot by police, resentment has built up. North African men complain they are stopped whenever they go out. Many were born in France and carry French papers. In this atmosphere, the slightest spark can cause a blaze.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk