NEWS - Archive November 2005

Special News Edition: French riots


7/12/2005- French judges on Wednesday opposed a decision to deport a 21-year-old Mauritanian man accused of taking part in last month's wave of suburban rioting. The man, who has lived in France since the age of three, faces a deportation order issued by the prefecture, or state-appointed local government authority, in Cergy, northwest of the capital. An official letter advising him of his deportation accuses him of committing "grave acts of violence against a law enforcement officer" even though he was released without charge following his arrest last month. He denies taking part in the violence. A consultative panel of judges in nearby Pontoise ruled against the deportation on the grounds that the charges against him "have not been established". The panel said the man, who holds valid residency papers, had no past convictions and appeared to be well integrated into French society, and argued that his presence "on French territory was not a threat to public order". The final decision rests with the prefecture in Cergy. Three weeks of unrest broke out in suburbs across France with large numbers of inhabitants of immigrant origin in late October, with arson attacks on almost 10,000 cars and on public property leading to nearly 3,000 arrests. The violence was largely attributed to youths of families from France's former colonial possessions in north and west Africa, who feel they are the victims of racism, chronic unemployment and police harassment. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday that deportation procedures were being carried out against seven of the 83 foreign nationals arrested over the riots. The UN Committee Against Torture voiced concern last month that the French decision to deport foreigners over the riots could have a discriminatory effect and that those concerned could be denied a fair trial.
Expatica News



6/12/2005- The storm aroused by French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut refuses to subside. On Sunday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy threw his full weight behind the beleaguered philosopher, who has been forced to remain cloistered at home following the sharp reactions to an interview he gave to Haaretz. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Sarkozy said: "Monsieur Finkielkraut is an intellectual who brings honor and pride to French wisdom ... If there is so much criticism of him, it might be because he says things that are correct." The minister was asked about Finkielkraut because several reporters saw similarities between the conservative views the philosopher expressed about the recent riots in France and the tough stance the minister took in dealing with the agitators who took to the street night after night. The liberal weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted its cover story to what it called "the new neo-reactionaries." Alongside Finkielkraut's picture on the cover was a title stating that Finkielkraut and his colleagues had worsened the social chasms in the country. Others mentioned as supporters of similar ideas were Sarkozy, philosopher Andre Gluksman and historian Pierre-Andre Taguieff (who coined the phrase Judeophobia). They are described as belonging to a right-wing wave that is now prominent in France. Sarkozy appeared ready to take on the media. He had been following the attacks on Finkielkraut for two weeks and was waiting for a suitable opportunity. "What do you want of him?" he asked the media representatives. "M. Finkielkraut does not consider himself obliged to follow the monolithic thinking of many intellectuals, which led to Le Pen winning 24 percent in the elections. The philosophers who frequent the salons and live between Cafe de Flor and Boulevard St. Germain suddenly find that France no longer bears a resemblance to them."

This is an unprecedented attack on the left wing by the very person who is seen by many French as being the only one capable of preventing the disintegration of the republic. The cafes and bistros of Boulevard St. Germain and the narrow alleyways of St. Germain-des-Pres were traditionally frequented by members of the left, led by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who would take their morning coffee and read the newspapers there. When the socialists came to power under Francois Mitterand in 1981, the celebrations there were legendary. But of late, the area has lost some of its left-wing color. While Sarkozy has won popular support for his stronghanded policies, he has been criticized in the media for his autocratic manner and his lack of sympathy for the social causes behind the rioters' behavior. Finkielkraut appeared to be mouthing his words. Finkielkraut's apologies printed in Le Monde, a few days after the Haaretz interview, disappointed many. His supporters felt he had retracted his words for fear of a media boycott, as had happened to others. As a result of his apologies, Finkielkraut was able to maintain his radio programs on the prestigious France Culture channel and the Jewish radio channel and even increased his audience. The weekly Le Point also devoted a four-page report to the Finkielkraut affair this week. While the interviewees stressed his intellectual acumen, they almost all felt Finkielkraut had slipped up by mentioning the ethnic identity of the rioters - he had described them as blacks, Arabs and Muslims. Nevertheless, to date, all the organizations and bodies that threatened to sue him for racism have changed their minds. The trials of the rioters, however, will begin shortly. There are 785 detainees, of whom 83 are illegal residents. Seven will be deported in the next few days.
"They are on their way out," Sarkozy told the reporters.



28/11/2005- CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke to the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. The following is a transcript of the interview.

Amanpour: Firstly, thank you very much for joining us Mr. prime minister, would you accept that France has a very serious social malaise, a very serious social problem that requires dramatic solutions, actions?
De Villepin: Yes, indeed. Important and severe social unrest; we have had more than 9,000 cars that were burned. We had approximately 130 policemen that were injured and approximately 100 of public buildings that were damaged during this period, during these two weeks of unrest.

Amanpour: You know, many people, after hurricane Katrina struck the United States said, that it exposed the poverty and racism that exist in the United States. Many people in France said that ... around the world said it. Many people also said that the riots in the ghettos if you like... in the suburbs ...
De Villepin: I am not sure you can call them riots. It's very different from the situation you have known in 1992 in L.A. for example. You had at that time 54 people that died, and you had 2,000 people wounded. In France during the 2 weeks period of unrest, nobody died in France. So, I think you can't compare this social unrest with any kind of riots.

Amanpour: What do you call it then?
De Villepin: Social unrest, you have to understand also, there were no guns in the streets. No adults; mostly young people between 12 and 20 ... so it is very special movement.

Amanpour: Many people say that special movement or social unrest is fueled by mass unemployment especially in the youth...
De Villepin: It's approximately the double of the rest of the country.

Amanpour: Which is dramatic ...
De Villepin: Yes, of course.

Amanpour: ... By poverty and by racism ...
De Villepin: Feeling of discrimination: very often, you have people coming from the second generation of immigration, they don't know their country of origin. They don't have the same link with France as their parents who chose to come and work here. So, as Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic said, there was some kind of a lack of identity.

Amanpour: In terms of Identity, many of them told us, that they are asked to be French in spirit of the republic, but the French government doesn't love them, doesn't care about them, doesn't do enough to make sure that they have equal opportunity in a country that is all about egalité.
De Villepin: I think we should recognize that we have not made enough during all these years and decades. We need to be conscious of this situation. We have to say that, and it is important to also understand the real nature of these movements, there is no ethnic or religious basis of this movement, as we can see in some other parts of the world. But it is true that the feeling of discrimination, the feeling of maybe not having the same equal chance... but what is interesting, is that most of these young people, they want to be 100 percent French. They want to have equal chances. So, it is really our goal now to answer their demands and to move and to put as a priority a lot more that needs to be done on housing, on education, on employment and this is going to be on the agenda of our government during the next weeks and months.

Amanpour: The majority of these people who are in the banlieus are blacks or of North African origins. And they feel that not only there are no opportunities, but there are no role models for them. There no minorities in your parliament, none in your news organizations, ...
De Villepin: But they don't want to be recognized.... They don't want to be recognized as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from North Africa. They want to be recognized, as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives.

Amanpour: So what do you say then to somebody whose name is Mohammed, who knows that even if he has the best grades from the Sorbonne, his resume, his c.v., will be rejected 5 times more often than somebody who's called Francois, that's a fact.
De Villepin: Well, the first question is to everybody in this country. We have to answer the question and try to solve it. Nobody can accept that. This cannot be a fatality. We want to change this mentality. And already we have seen so many initiatives. Take for example, a lot of companies, French companies that have decided to have a more diverse recruitment in their own companies. So we should change, we have many decisions that have been taken during the last years. As for example, a Curriculum Vitae anonymous which allows the company to choose people without knowing which race or which religion. So I believe that it is a matter of mobilization in the country in order to make sure that discrimination is not going to be accepted. President Chirac has decided to create a high authority against discrimination and for equality. And this authority is going to be able to give sanctions to people who are not going to comply with our Republican rules.

Amanpour: Is that like positive discrimination? Is that affirmative action?
De Villepin: No, there is a difference between... what we stand for in our republic, which is: equal chances and affirmative action.  Affirmative action is mainly aimed in taking into account the race and the religion. In our republic: everybody is equal and we don't want to take into account the color of the skin or the religion. But we want to take into account the difficulty that one may have. So we want to help the individuals on the basis of their own difficulties. That's why we are going to have an important program in order to help more this neighborhood that has been facing difficulties in terms of education for example. That means we are going to help all the different schools in these neighborhoods, in order to help all the young people that maybe cannot master as well the French language or do have problems in schools. It means very intense program in order to give them equal chances.

Amanpour: How can you help these people if you do not take into account that they are discriminated against because of their color.
De Villepin: We are going to triple the scholarships giving to the children. We are going to triple the boarding schools in order to answer to the best students in these different neighborhoods, in order to help them going to university and to have a good career. But the difference between the system you have and the one we have is that we are going to help as well any young children in France facing difficulties but not taking into account the fact he is black or coming from Maghreb or being Muslim. Every one who is having difficulties is going to be taken into account and helped individually.

Amanpour: It was your government that cut quite a lot of money and quite a lot of programs to these areas that we just saw explode in spasm of violence...
De Villepin: That's not absolutely true.

Amanpour: There were quite a lot of cuts...
De Villepin: Well, we spent differently in different programs and we have put the emphasis mainly on housing. We have decided to have a 30 billion program in order to renovate the whole urbanism. One of the big problems in these neighborhood, is that in the sixties and the seventies in order to answer to the crisis of housing, it has been created a lot of high-rise buildings with a lot of people living there in very difficult way. So we have decided to build residence on a smaller scale and we are doing that in a very very fast programs: 18 months between the demolishing of these big buildings and the reconstruction of these new residences. This is of course very expensive programs. What is true is that we have decided to re-allocate a certain amount of money for the social organizations working in these cities.

Amanpour: But some people also said that the labor laws here need to be changed. That because it is so difficult to hire young people... without being able to fire them because of your very strict social and labor laws, that that is a double negative against those people.
De Villepin: Well, first we want to make a very special effort in direction of the young people of these neighborhoods. That's why we've decided to have our national agency of employment to receive all the young people in these neighborhood during the next month. In order to either propose either a job, either a training program or an internship. In order to really answer to their demands. We are really willing to take into account that their very specific difficulties and individually to answer these difficulties.

Amanpour: How long do you have to get it right?
De Villepin: Well, it is an emergency matter. We want to deal with these matters very very fast. I am going to present a full program on Thursday in order to have a better justice, better education in these neighborhood. So, we are taking this very seriously. We want to have very fast answer, global answers. In order to really comply with our obligations. We are facing, this is the difficulty, problems of very different nature. Problems for example of employment. We want to attract more companies into these neighborhoods. And we have created tax free zones, we want to increase the numbers of these tax free zones in order to have more companies creating jobs but we also want the people of these neighborhoods being able to accept the jobs outside of these neighborhoods, because we need a social mix in order to have a real equilibrium now in our society. So it is a challenge, it is a challenge for these neighborhoods, it is a challenge for the whole French society. And I think it is very important that we succeed in this, because whatever happened in France can happen as well in other countries, in Europe or else where. It is a part of a new phenomenon of globalization. So we need to be successful and I think France has to show that its society has a vitality, has a capacity, has a willingness to make and to deal with the challenge.

Amanpour: France, and you yourself when you were Foreign Minister, was very vocal about the Iraq war. You obviously did not support it and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?
De Villepin: No, I think it is of course a very difficult situation; we have gone a long way to begin to establish democracy in Iraq, but still there is a long way to go. And I think the effort should be important in terms of including all the political forces. After the referendum on the constitution, we are going to have general elections in Iraq on the 15th of December, and I think it is a very important moment in order to try to put together all the political and social forces of the country. We know that there are two risks in Iraq still today. One is the division of Iraq which is of course a nightmare for the region. And the second one is a growing role of terrorism. So I think it is very important for the international community to try to put all these forces together to solve the matter and I think we should support the initiative of the Arab League: try to support a better regroupement, coalition of the different political forces, and also make sure that all the countries of the region work together in order to go forward.

Amanpour: But you can see there is a huge amount of difficulty with that...
De Villepin: We knew since the beginning that it was very easy to go to war, but very difficult to get out of Iraq, because of the fragility of the country, because of the sensitivity of the situation in this region. So now we have to face the situation as it is, and it is the responsibility of all the international community to help the process, to make sure that we go forward all together.

Amanpour: Do you believe the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops?
De Villepin: I believe that anything should be done coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation. I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq which of course would be disastrous for the whole region.

Amanpour: Iran. France, Britain and Germany have taken the lead in trying to make sure Iran does not get its hands on nuclear weapons. And they have also been very clear in not wanting Iran in engaging in the uranium enrichment cycle, those talks broke off, there is a new Iranian president, there is word that the EU3 is ready to start negotiations again, is that true?
De Villepin: No. We have made an offer. And Iran has decided to resume the enrichment of uranium, the conversion of uranium, and I think it is very important now today to put pressure on Iran to make sure that they accept this offer, if they don't accept... then we will have to go then to the Security Council.

Amanpour: Do you believe that the new presidency sees it that was, since they have restarted and said that they won't stop?
De Villepin: As always, in any negotiations, it is difficult to make any prediction, but I think that there is a deal possible, there is an offer that has been made by the Europeans and I think it is in the interests of the international community, in the interests of Iran, to accept these proposals

Amanpour: What sanctions can you imagine?
De Villepin: You see there is one key factor of diplomacy, never tell what you will do before.
Cable News Network



29/11/2005- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin today announced tightened controls on immigration, part of his government’s response to France’s worst civil unrest in four decades. Legal immigrants who ask for a 10-year residency permit or French citizenship should show that they have integrated and mastered French, he said. France will crack down on fraudulent marriages that some immigrants ue to acquire residency rights and launch a stricter screening process for foreign students, de Villepin said. Both de Villepin and his Interior Minister and rival Nicolas Sarkozy have announced law-and-order measures since the rioting broke out this month in depressed suburbs where many immigrants live. The two men – both members of President Jacques Chirac’s conservative party – are expected to vie for the presidency in 2007, and both want to appear firm in response to the violence and France’s broader social problems. Marriages celebrated abroad between French people and foreigners will no longer be automatically recognised in France, de Villepin said. Consulates must screen couples first before foreign partners can be granted French identity papers, he said. “It’s not an attempt to undermine the right to marry, but to check that all the conditions for a true marriage are in place,” de Villepin said, adding that the measure would be adopted by parliament in the first half of 2006. The prime minister also said the government should have the ability to enforce a law outlawing polygamy. There are 8,000-to-15,000 polygamous families in France, according to official figures.

Some French officials cited polygamy as one reason that youths from underprivileged immigrant households joined the rioting – a suggestion that outraged opposition politicians and human rights groups. They warned against fanning racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The violence broke out on October 27 near Paris and spread throughout France. While promising to ease unemployment for youths and fight racial discrimination, the conservative government also promised tighter controls on crime and immigration. About 50,000 foreign students come to France each year to study. Foreign students will be screened in their home countries by centres run by officials from France’s Education Ministry, de Villepin said. “We want to channel our efforts to receive the best students, the most motivated, those who have a high-level study project,” he said. The French president said two weeks ago that France also must be stricter in enforcing regulations that govern whether immigrants can move their spouses and children to France. De Villepin said legal immigrants who want to move their families to France should wait at least two years before they can apply, up from the current one year. So-called family reunions are the second biggest source of legal immigration to France, affecting about 25,000 people in 2004. Marriage is the largest: About 34,000 French people married foreigners from beyond the European Union last year. De Villepin later told parliament that the number of illegal immigrants sent back has more than doubled over the past three years, with France on target to deport more than 20,000 people this year.
Ireland on-line



26/11/2005- A number of French NGOs launched on Friday, November 25, into a diatribe against intellectual Alain Finkielkraut for calling rioters a bunch of "rebels" with Muslim identity. "Finkielkraut will be sued for inciting hatred," vowed the chairman of Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People (MRAP), Mouloud Aounit. "There will be no dialogue with racists," he said in a statement, adding that Finkielkraut and his ilk should know their limits. Finkielkraut said in an interview with Haaretz last week that the problem with rioters is that they are "blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity." "Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character," he said. The rioting began on October 27 with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris. The government has then come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers. Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver

The racist remarks by Finkielkraut further drew vitriol from other French NGOs. The Audio-Visual Council (Le Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) urged the France Culture radio to sack Finkielkraut and keep his weekly program from the airwaves. The Jewish Union for Peace in France also censured the writer, issuing a strongly-worded statement blasting the Finkielkraut's blatant racism in the interview. The interview's headline "What Sort of Frenchmen are They?" is a case in point, it said. SOS Racisme also joined the chorus of condemnation, demanding the intellectual to reconsider his statements hoping that it was just a slip of the tongue. Senior government officials have frequently said that the recent turmoil has nothing to do with religion. Chief of Interior Intelligence Service Pierre de Bousquet told French RTL channel on Wednesday, November 23, Islam should by no way take the blame for the work of angry youths. "We must address the roots and real reasons behind the unrest," he said. Bernard Bessingere, the chief of a Saint Denis municipality, lauded last week the key role played by the leaders of the Muslim minority in Saint Denis to calm down a furious generation. On November 20, Muslim leaders in the Saint Denis's District 93, where the first sparkle of riots started, have put their heads together with government officials, clerics and party leaders to tackle how to avoid a repeat of the riots. Better known among the French as "District 93" Saint Denis has a Muslim population of 500,000 out of 1,200 million people, making it the largest Muslim residential area in the country. Muslims make up some five million of France’s 60 million people, the biggest Muslim minority in Europe.
Islam Online



26/11/2005- Sixty French associations for black people formed a federation on Saturday to fight racial discrimination in the aftermath of a flare-up of violence in poor suburbs across France. Named the representative council for black associations, or CRAN, the federation aims to involve political parties, unions and other bodies in fighting discrimination. Prejudice and exclusion have been cited among reasons youths from immigrant families spent three weeks rioting in the outskirts of French cities blighted by poverty and unemployment in late October and November. The federation chose Patrick Lozes, leader of the Capdiv body that promotes diversity in France, as its chairman. "Before the suburbs burn again, we have to take stock of ethno-racial discrimination in France," Lozes said. Stephane Pocrain, a former Green party spokesman, said integrating black people in French society was key. "What's really at stake is how to find greater social cohesion by reintegrating, both in the national story and in the national community, those who are permanently excluded from it because they have black skin," he said after a meeting organised at France's lower house of parliament, or National Assembly. He said CRAN aimed to hold talks with bodies like France's employers federation, Medef, about diversity in companies. The singer Manu Dibango, former footballer Basile Boli and Fode Sylla, the former president of anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme, are all members of the federation.



25/11/2005- European Commission President Durão Barroso came under a hail of vociferous criticism last week after announcing that Brussels plans to give riot torn France millions of euros in aid. He pledged nearly 950 million euros after 18 nights of street riots, car burning and armed attacks on police. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Barroso said: "These riots are a European issue. We are ready to examine the possibility of immediately remobilising and redirecting certain funds". The proposed aid would be in addition to a 100 million euro grant already handed over by the EU for the redevelopment of the kind of impoverished French towns where the riots broke out. During the disturbances, 300 cities and towns were hit and nearly 3,000 people arrested. More than 8,000 vehicles have been set on fire and at least 72 public buildings destroyed, including schools and colleges. However, Barroso's proposed grants have rankled with parties across the political spectrum. The UK Tory party described them as "unbelievable and a waste of taxpayers' money". Tory spokesman Graham Brady told BBC TV: "We all sympathise with the French people who have suffered from the riots, but France is already one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funding. It would be hard to justify taking still more cash from those who pay the most into the EU, like hard working British taxpayers". Brady expressed surprise that a country as wealthy as France was not able to finance solutions to its own domestic problems, especially as policies for dealing with immigrants such as isolating them on rundown estates, have been the main cause of the riots. Barroso has so far refused to respond to criticism of his planned aid programme and if anything appears to be deter mined to press ahead with further grants if deemed necessary. He was warmly congratulated by the French European Minister Catherine Colonna who went on to say: "It's a good start ­ it's a good thing". Attempting to allay the fears of French citizens over the threats of more riots, President Jacques Chirac said in a TV speech: "These events bear witness to a deep malaise. We will respond by being firm, by being fair and by being faithful to the values of France".
The Portugal News



25/11/2005- The prime minister of France is playing down comments made by other members of his party, who earlier this week claimed that rap music helped fuel the recent suburban riots. In an interview with French radio Friday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin dismissed the claim, spearheaded by MP Francois Grosdidier, that songs by French rappers helped drive the three weeks of rioting in poor suburbs. The wide-ranging civil unrest began in late October, when two teenagers were electrocuted at a power sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris. Local youths allege the pair were being pursued by police, a charge officials deny. In the aftermath of the riots, which abated last week, Villepin said, "it is one of my primary responsibilities to avoid any sort of confusion or finger-pointing." He continued: "Is rap responsible for the crisis in the suburbs? My answer is no." However, he did acknowledge that certain artists must claim responsibility for the content they create. "When one writes a song, when one writes a book, when one expresses oneself, do we have a responsibility? Yes," he said.

Rapper Monsieur R the main target
Approximately 200 French MPs and senators are backing a request for the country's justice ministry to investigate and possibly prosecute seven rap groups over what the MPs believe are provocative lyrics. Earlier this week, Grosdidier argued that music by certain rappers "conditioned" listeners to violence. He alleged that songs like FranSSe by rapper Monsieur R incite racism and hatred and should be banned from the airwaves. Though other musical artists were mentioned in the request, Monsieur R (whose real name is Richard Makela) has been the central target, particularly because of FranSSe. The song – in which the rapper calls France "a prostitute" and disparages historical figures – is not a call to arms against the country but a rant against government leaders who neglect ethnic minorities, Makela told French TV. "Hip hop is a crude art, so we use crude words. It is not a call to violence," he said. Makela is also facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song. In recent years, French rappers have predicted that many of the country's suburbs – where poverty abounds – were set to explode in violence.
CBC News



23/11/2005- Seven French rap outfits could face legal action following a complaint lodged by some 200 lawmakers on Wednesday, accusing them of helping to provoke the country's recent riots through their song lyrics. "Sexism, racism and anti-Semitism are no more acceptable in song lyrics than in written or spoken words," the deputy behind the initiative, François Grosdidier of the ruling centre-right UMP, told AFP. "This is one of the factors that led to the violence in the suburbs," he said, arguing that rap music "conditions" listeners into a violent frame of mind that can spur them on to action. In a petition co-signed by 152 deputies and 49 senators, the deputy drew the attention of justice minister Pascal Clement to seven rap singers and bands whom he accuses of inciting racism and hatred. The complaint singled out the song 'FranSSe' by the rap artist Monsieur R, whose lyrics describe France as a "bitch" to be "screwed until she drops". Its author, Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, is already facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song, brought by another ruling-party deputy. The complaint also targets the singers Smala, Fabe and Salif and the rap groups Lunatic, 113, and Ministère Amer. French rap artists have been using hip hop music as a medium to protest about conditions in France's tough suburbs since the early 1980s. References to police harassment, drugs, inequality, violence and "a day of reckoning" for the injustices of life all litter their songs. Following the weeks of violence that broke out in poor, high-immigration French suburbs in late October and early November, their lyrics warning of violence and railing against discrimination have appeared eerily prescient.
Expatica News



24/11/2005- Maimouna Djitte and her six brothers and sisters speak French among themselves, but their West African-born parents speak to the children in the Senegalese dialect of their homeland. Like other immigrant families, the Djittes feel stuck between two worlds. "I've lived here longer than in Senegal, but I don't feel French," said the father, Massy, 60, who moved here in 1972 and quickly found construction work. He returned to Senegal in 1977 to marry Aby, a cousin chosen by his father, and they came back to France nine months later and moved into subsidized low-rent public housing. Back then, he dreamed of his sons becoming physicians, professors or engineers - hopes, he says, all but shattered now. He and his sons say racism and discrimination against jobseekers from troubled suburbs like this one northeast of Paris make finding decent work tough if not impossible. Massy said racism was not a problem when he arrived. "Strangers gave us a ride in their cars. It was incredible. They liked blacks in those days because we were honest and hardworking," he said. Now, "even if you work well, they would still hire someone with white skin," he added, tugging the skin on his arm for emphasis. "I thought France would open its arms to my children as it did to me. But it didn't. I want to go back" to Senegal, he said, and plans to when he retires sometime in the next 18 months from his job as a cleaner. Lamine, 26, the eldest son, has a high-school diploma in business, but has secured nothing better than the occasional telemarketing job. "No one says, 'I'm not hiring you because you're black.' But we always feel it's there," said Lamine. He says prospective employers sometimes ask for immigration papers, even though he is French. "Why? Because I'm black?" he asks.

His brother, 21-year-old Boubaka, said their suburban zip code dooms job applications. "When I'm looking for work, my origin becomes more important. My name becomes a barrier," he said. Unlike their father, the children cannot imagine living anywhere but France. Lamine has been to his parents' West African homeland once, in 2000. "I prefer to live here, we have access to a lot of things. Senegal has a lot of development problems, it's poor. People there dream to go to Europe and the United States," he said. "It is crazy that I'm French and would want to live there while they want to leave." Since the riots, President Jacques Chirac's government has vowed to make a priority of combating discrimination and finding work for youths from depressed neighborhoods where unemployment and frustrations run high. Chirac has told companies, unions and media executives that France must encourage diversity, but said his government will not impose hiring or educational quotas based on race. Massy said he had not expected to stay longer than the time it took to earn some money to take home. But jobs were so abundant that he switched plans. "I was ready to do all kinds of work so my kids would have a decent life, better jobs than me, a better future," said Massy. He works as a cleaner, making $1,500 a month. Rent for their three-bedroom apartment, utilities and phone bills swallow about half of that, leaving $700 for groceries and the family car, Massy said. His two eldest sons also have cars. A knee injury forced Aby, 43, to give up her $700-a-month job cleaning a hotel at Disneyland Paris. "I can't say we are poor because there are poorer people than us, but we don't have any money left at the end of the month," Massy said. He plans to move to a house he has built in Senegal, Aby and the children will stay in France. Massy hopes Lamine will find steady work so he can care for them. "My father wanted a lot of things. He came from a country where people didn't have a lot," Lamine said. "I just want to get ahead and do my best - be a good son, maybe a good father and have a job that would give me enough money to pay the bills."
Associated Press


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