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Fury over 'wall of shame' built to block Paris crack users

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Fury over 'wall of shame' built to block Paris crack users
This picture taken on September 27, 2021, in the north-east of Paris, shows a wall made by French authorities to block the access to a tunnel leading to the nearby popular suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis after the installation there of about fifty crack addicts evacuated from another site less than two kilometers away. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

A wall erected to keep crack users from entering a Paris suburb has drawn outrage, forcing the government to promise new responses to a long-running drugs scourge.

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Authorities bricked up a tunnel under the Paris ring road leading to the northeastern suburb of Pantin over the weekend after clearing dozens of crack smokers from a park in the area.

Several residents of Pantin and the neighbouring suburb of Aubervilliers slammed the so-called "wall of shame". They demanded that the government find a permanent solution to Paris's decades-old drugs problem to prevent it spilling over into low-income suburbs.

Pantin mayor Bertrand Kern called the government's decision "shameful and irresponsible" and asked for an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex.

"It's by nature a temporary solution for an emergency situation, and does not satisfy anyone," Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti admitted to RTL radio on Monday.

He said the government was working "very seriously" on how to deal with the insecurity caused by crack addicts in Paris, a problem that reached a tipping point earlier this year when disgruntled residents began shooting powerful fireworks at users or pelting them with eggs.

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In a letter to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo seen by AFP, Paris police chief Didier Lallement said that addicts had been expelled from a park on Friday because their presence "near several schools" had become "untenable".

He added that the wall was a "necessary protection for the residents of Pantin," which is part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, one of the poorest in France.

Lallement and Hidalgo have crossed swords repeatedly over the Socialist mayor's request for more supervised drug use sites, a proposition rejected by many on the right.

So far just one is open in the capital, and Hidalgo was forced to abandon plans for a new one in eastern Paris this month after an uproar from residents.

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