Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets

The Eiffel Tower was closed on Friday morning, as workers protested over the scourge of pickpockets around the famous monument, who they say have threatened and attacked them.

Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets
Tourists at the France's iconic Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP
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.
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.


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Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II

The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II
The Eiffel Tower reopens on Friday. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

The lifts of the Dame de fer (Iron Lady) are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daily capacity is restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.

And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements on the pass sanitaire (health passport).

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“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” the head of the operating company, Jean-François Martins, told AFP.

After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the “lady is ready”.

Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

Martins said there was an “almost total absence” of British ticket holders, while only 15 percent were Americans and very few are from Asia.

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Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.

The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh €60-million cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 percent to €25 million in 2020.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to workers.

Tests are still underway and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.