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Revealed: The worrying truth about poverty in France in 2017

The number of children, single women and foreigners in need in France continues to rise, according to a new report which details shocking figures on poverty levels in one of the world's wealthiest nations.

Revealed: The worrying truth about poverty in France in 2017
Photo: AFP
The new report published by French charity the Secours Catholique shows that society's most vulnerable groups are getting poorer. 
 
That means the numbers of children, single women and foreigners living in France without a stable legal status struggling to make ends meet are on the rise. 
 
In total there were around nine million people living below the poverty line in France in 2016. In France this means they are living on an income of less than €1,015 a month, and many of them on considerably less.
 
Bernard Thibaud, the charity's director warns: “The French have got used to poverty levels not improving.”
 
Here's a look at the groups suffering the most from poverty in France. 
 
A volunteer of the French charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur. Photo: AFP
 
Children 
 
In 2016, the association helped some 1.5 million people, nearly half of whom were children. 
 
“Children are now in the majority in our aid centres,” said Thibaud, who reports a “growing vulnerability among families.” 
 
The majority of these children (55 percent) lived in single parent families and 44 percent of them were under the responsibility of an adult of foreign origin.

 
Photo: AFP
 
“Because of the unstable employment situation as well as mass unemployment, being in a couple does not protect people from poverty as much as it used to,” said Thibaud. 
 
Single women
 
The number of single women living in poverty also continued to grow, with nearly six out of every ten French adults who received help from Secours Catholique in 2016 a woman. Of these, 40 percent were single mothers.
 
Photo: AFP
 
According to the charity, their difficulties can be explained in part by retirement pensions or lower resources than the rest of the population.

 
Foreigners without legal status 
 
In 2016 one household out of five helped by the charity had no income or resources, representing a 0.5 percent increase on 2015's figures and a 1.2 percent increase on 2014. 
 
The report showed that 53 percent of these households were foreigners who did not have a stable legal status in France and therefore do not have the right to work or benefit from welfare. 
 
“This undermines the prejudice that foreigners come to France to take advantage of social welfare,” said Thibaud. “People say they benefit from the system but many are not even aware of their rights.”
 
READ ALSO:

France races to tear down its 570 squalid shanty towns but root problems persist

Photo: AFP
 
Growing number of working poor 
 
Another area of society where poverty is growing is among the working population. 
 
Figures from the report showed that while 67.9 percent of people helped by the charity's centres were unemployed, even having a job didn't guarantee financial comfort. 
 
And somewhat shockingly, among the 17 percent of those who were living below the poverty line while working, 25 percent of them had a permanent contract (or CDI). 
 
Unclaimed benefits 
 
According to the report, one of the main reasons behind the large number of people in need in France is people who could potentially benefit from assistance not claiming it. 
 
Apparently, 40 percent of those eligible for Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), a social welfare aimed at helping those on low wages, do not request it.
 
“These percentages are extremely high, and worrying,” say Secours Catholique, adding that some people simply don't know their rights while others find it difficult to get to the administration centres. 
 
And then there's also a question of shame and self-censorship. 
 
What you need to know about begging in Paris
Photo: AFP
 
Official figures suggest that €5.3 billion goes unclaimed each year in France. In contrast, “just” €170 million is claimed fraudulently each year. 
 
“We must simplify the payment process,” says Thibaud.
 
For anyone living in the French capital the problem of poverty is easily visible.
 
The sight of groups people rummaging through supermarket and household bins is increasingly common.
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
The charity also noted that it wasn't just extra money that those living in poverty were craving, with many saying they felt they needed someone to talk to. 
 
In October, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the launch of a six-month consultation period which will culminate in a “prevention strategy” to combat the country's growing poverty, particularly targeted at cutting the number of children living below the poverty line. 
 
Until then, France's most needy can do nothing but wait.  
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TRAVEL

UPDATE: Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Travelling between Spain and the UK during the pandemic has been very difficult due to border closures, cancelled flights and quarantines, but what is the situation like now? Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Driving between Spain and UK
Photo: Bertsz / 67 images/ Pixabay

Several readers have asked about the restrictions and necessary documents and tests needed to drive to the UK and if it’s possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Travelling by car between the UK and Spain at the moment is possible, but not very easy. Although it’s a lot easier now than it was before the state of alarm ended, it will still involve PCR and/or antigen testing, quarantine, and lots of form-filling. This will mean extra expenses too. 

Spain and France have both updated their rules on travel as restrictions begin to ease. Here’s a look at what you need to know driving between the UK and Spain, via France right now.

Leaving Spain

Movement in Spain has become a lot easier since the end of the state of alarm on May 9th. This means that you can easily drive across regional borders without the need to prove specific reasons.

There may still be certain municipalities or health zones that you might need to avoid because their borders are still closed due to a high number of cases, but for the most part, your drive through Spain, up until the French border, will be easy.

Keep in mind that some regions still have certain restrictions in place such as when bars and restaurants are allowed to open and a few still maintain curfews, so you’ll need to check the rules of those regions you’re planning on driving through.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

Crossing the French border from Spain

Travel into France is allowed for any reason, including for tourism and family visits. This easing of restrictions was introduced on May 3rd, which saw France opening up both its regional and international borders.

According to the French embassy in Spain: “Entry into the metropolitan territory from a country in the European area is subject to the presentation, by travellers over eleven years of age, of a negative result of a PCR test, carried out within 72 hours prior to departure. This obligation applies to all modes of travel (arrival by road, rail, air or sea)”.

They also state that all travellers will have to present an affidavit/certificate of international travel, certifying that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19 infection and that they are not aware of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the fourteen days prior to the trip.

“If you are over eleven years old, you agree that a biological test for SARS-CoV-2 will be carried out upon arrival on French territory” it continues.

The certificate can be downloaded from the website of the French Ministry. The supporting documents must be presented to the control authorities at the border.

The test must be carried out within 72 hours of departing for France and the antigen test is not accepted. You must take a PCR test, otherwise, you’ll be refused entry to France.

A Spanish police officer checks PCR coronavirus tests at the border between Spain and France. Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

You can drive straight through France, as there’s no quarantine requirement for those coming from inside the EU.

Note that France still has several restrictions in place, but they are gradually easing. As of May 19th, the curfew was extended to 9pm and bars and restaurants were allowed to operate outdoor services only. This means that you’ll need to stop driving and find somewhere to spend the night after the 9pm cut-off time.

If you have to travel past curfew for an essential reason, you will need an attestation permission form, which you can find HERE.

From June 9th, the curfew will be extended again until 11pm and the interiors of bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open. 

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces across the country, and also outdoors in most of the larger towns and cities. If you don’t wear one, you could face a fine of €135.

Entering the UK

On May 17th, the UK government lifted its ban on all non-essential travel abroad and replaced it with the traffic light system, assigning countries to red, amber or green lists, according to their health data.

France and Spain are currently on the amber list, as well as most other European countries, bar Portugal, which is on the green list.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

This means that you must follow the amber list rules.

The UK government website states that if coming from an amber-list country, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you need to follow these rules before you enter England:

 On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.

You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

The traffic light list only applies to England, but Scotland also has its own traffic-light system, which at the moment has the same green-list countries as England. It is thought that Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to adopt the traffic light system too.

If you’re entering the UK from an amber country, you can go for any reason. It doesn’t have to be an essential trip and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

Find further information on UK travel rules HERE.

If in the future, France makes it onto the green list, then no quarantine will be necessary. Regardless, of this, a negative Covid-19 test is still needed to enter England, plus another test on or before day 2.

What about driving back to Spain?

The UK is still advising against travel to amber countries for leisure or tourism reasons, which France and Spain are both currently on.

This isn’t a travel ban, but the official stand can mean that your travel insurance won’t be valid, so check your policy before you travel.

JUNE UPDATE: From Monday, May 31st, France is tightening up entry requirements for arrivals from the UK, following in the footsteps of Germany and Austria as European countries become increasingly concerned about circulation of the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid in the UK.

So what’s the situation if you are just passing through?

If you are returning to your permanent residence in another EU or Schengen zone country then you can travel, as one of the listed ‘vital reasons’ is returning home. You will, however, need to show some proof of your residency, ideally a residency card.

If you are travelling for another reason you can travel through France, provided you spend less than 24 hours in the country.

The testing requirement applies to all arrivals, even if you are only passing through France, but if you spend less than 24 hours in the country you are not required to quarantine.

You will also need to check the rules in your destination country on arrivals from France. If you are entering France from an EU or Schengen zone country you will need to show a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours and this must be a PCR test. You can enter France for any reason from an EU/Schengen country.

And yes, these rules all apply even to the fully vaccinated.

To find out more about the rules and exceptions for travel between France and the UK click the link below.

READ MORE: Spain-UK road travel – Can I transit through France despite the new Indian variant restrictions?

Currently, the Spanish government website states that only citizens and legal residents of the European Union, Schengen states, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican and San Marino, as well as those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be able to enter the country.

However, Spain recently announced that it would welcome British tourists into the country without a negative PCR test from May 24th. 

READ ALSO:

The website also states that “all overland travellers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) who wish to enter Spain by road from France, are required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to entry”.

This applies to everyone, even if you have been vaccinated already.

Please note The Local is not able to give advice on individual cases. For more information on international travel to and from Spain, see the government’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I fly from the UK to Spain to visit family or my second home?

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