How France could fight 'social apartheid' in 2015

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How France could fight 'social apartheid' in 2015
Police out in force in the French suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes during the riots of 2005. Photo: AFP

French PM Manuel Valls caused a storm in the aftermath of the January terror attacks saying France must face the reality of "social and ethnic apartheid". One MP has done just that and listed 24 measures for how France could tackle the problem of its suburban ghettos.


"These last few days have emphasized many of the... challenges we have to face."

"To that we must add all the divisions, the tensions that have been brewing for too long and that we hardly mention... territorial, social, ethnic apartheid in our country."

Those were the words of the French Prime Minister, spoken two weeks after three home-grown terrorists had left the country traumatized by shooting dead 17 people in Paris in three bloody days.

The attack opened up old wounds and plunged France into the same kind of self-reflection it engaged in as a nation as suburb after suburb went up in smoke in 2005 when riots swept the country.

"We cannot look for excuses - we have to look at the reality of France in the face," Valls told reporters.

That reality, he said, included mass unemployment, long-term unemployment, youth unemployment, and parents' anxiety for the future of their children.

Now, a French MP has faced the reality and come up with a detailed 24-point solution.

In an open letter sent to the French press, Philippe Doucet, a Socialist Party MP from Val d’Oise, has laid out a list of proposals and challenged PM Valls to follow his words with actions.

Among his more controversial proposals is to make it compulsory to vote. He also suggests “bussing” pupils from poorer suburbs to schools in neighbouring wealthier ones to encourage more integration and mixing.

Doucet also wants the government to authorize the collection of statistics on an ethnic basis that can be used for allocating social housing to fight against ghettoization.

France currently forbids by law the collection of data on racial or ethnic origin under the egalitarian ethos that all citizens are considered the same.

It’s long been a controversial issue but one that successive governments have decided not to tackle.

Doucet also proposes that suburbs suffering from "security or social breakdown" should be put under “temporary guardianship of the state” in order to “reinstate values and Republican order”.

Other ideas include a five-year plan to triple the number of police officers who descend from immigrants, and a compulsory six months of civic service between the ages of 16 and 18.

The letter was made public on the day PM Valls met with ministers to discuss how to deal with the very issue he had pin pointed.


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