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Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets

The Local/AFP · 22 May 2015, 12:32

Published: 22 May 2015 12:32 GMT+02:00

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Staff at the world's most famous landmark refused to open the doors at 9.30am on Friday. 
They said they wanted assurances from management that something would be done to fix the influx of pickpockets operating underneath tower, who are becoming all the more aggressive. 
In a statement, staff members said they were sick of the "daily scourge" of pickpocketers who were behind "several attacks and threats".
They added that they apologized to the members of the public who were already under the tower waiting to see one of the best views of the French capital.
The pickpockets "form a gang of 4/5 people. Sometimes there can be around 30" at the monument, one of the striking workers told AFP, adding that sometimes they "fight among themselves."
Another said he had been threatened while chasing away a pickpocket: "He said to me 'why don't you let us work... if this continues you will have problems.'"
The company charged with overseeing the management of the monument said in a statement it "regrets that visitors already present are being punished."
It said management was working with police to take measures "guaranteeing the security of staff and public."
The closure of the monument, which attracts some seven million tourists a year, left hundreds of visitors disappointed.
"It might be the only chance for my brother to visit the tower," said a dejected Tushar Kardile from London, who was visiting with his brother from India.
"We had booked reserved tickets. We are quite disappointed," he told AFP.
"They have every right to go on strike. But they should warn the public in advance."
Elena Sofronova from Russia said: "They just told us that they were on strike. We came here for our son's sixth birthday. He is a bit disappointed."
The company charged with overseeing the management of the monument said in a statement it "regrets that visitors already present are being punished."
It said management was working with police to take measures "guaranteeing the security of staff and public."
Hundreds of tourists were left disappointed when the Louvre -- home to works of art such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo -- shut in April 2013 after staff complained of being spat at, insulted and even hit by pickpockets.
Extra police were sent to patrol the museum, which is visited by 10 million tourists annually.
Paris, which received 22 million visitors in 2014 according to city figures, is one of the world's top tourist destinations and a mecca for tricksters and pickpockets.
Story continues below…
Particularly targeted are Asian tourists, due to a rise in wealthy travellers from countries such as China.
After complaints about muggings and attacks of Chinese tourists, the French interior ministry last year had Chinese police help patrol tourist destinations in Paris.
The Liberation daily newspaper reported on Friday that some 26,000 police and municipal agents would be deployed onto the streets of Paris this summer to deal with pickpockets.
Paris police chief Bernard Boucault was reported as saying that a dedicated plan put in place in the summer of 2013 -- June to August in Europe --  had led to a 10 percent decrease in thefts accompanied with violence.

The Local/AFP (news.france@thelocal.com)

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