France riots

France riots

France riots image

 Amine was 17 when his brother's badly burned body was recovered from the boot of a torched car.

he says "My brother unfortunately fell into drugs early," his face impassive as he glances up at the scruffy high-rise flats that surround us.

We sit, talking about his brother, who had trafficked drugs before his murder, in one of Marseille's most notorious neighborhoods.

Amine, now 19, grew up here on the Frais-Vallon estate, a vast and deprived social housing project in the north of the city, which is blighted by gang and drug-related violence.

Not far away, a couple of young men lounge on a wall. Drug dealers work openly here in the harsh afternoon sunlight.

Trafficking is, Amine says, a seductive choice for the children who grow up here and have little money - and even fewer prospects.

"There are no other options. There are no companies coming here and saying we'll pay you more than minimum wage… here people are supermarket cashiers or cleaners or security guards. We can't be judges, lawyers or accountants."

He wasn't surprised by the recent riots, which were particularly bad in Marseille. Businesses here including a gun shop were vandalized and looted and a man aged 27 was killed.

Prosecutors say the man who died was hit in the chest by a type of police rubber bullet called a "flashball". but the circumstances are unclear he is thought to have suffered a heart attack.

Biden official

The riots followed protests over the fatal shooting by police of 17-year-old Nahel M in Paris.

"We are always in the same mess, the same misery and nothing will change," says Amine, "so I understand the anger of the young people. I don't justify the violence, but I understand it."

The riots and their aftermath have revealed the depth of anger, frustration and abandonment felt by so many French citizens.

We met Mado, a middle-aged woman who lives on the estate, near what used to be a community police station here.

This was, for many, a physical link between them and the French state; its demise grimly symbolic of an increasing disconnection.

"It's like living in a bin here," says Mado. "It's not safe. People defecate in the lifts and stairwells. For the politicians we are nothing. We are really nothing."

A man, Mourad, speaks angrily as he tells us that there are rats everywhere here.

"Politicians go on the media and say there are no second-class citizens, but it's not true in reality   We don't have all same rights".

But few, perhaps, comprehend more clearly the profound divisions in French society - or their consequences - than Amine.

He now works to steer youngsters on the estate away from crime, but also supports the families of those who have paid with their lives.

Under the age of 30  Two-thirds of the victims ,Last year there were 31 drug trafficking-related murders in Marseille. This year there have been 23. 

The French authorities have acknowledged both the tragedy and the problem.

Two years ago, President Emmanuel Macron promised to fix Marseille. He declared a €5bn plan to gear crime and poverty (£4.3bn; $5.4bn) in the city.

He came back to the southern port city just before the riots to reinforce his commitment.

President Macron said at the beginning of a three-day trip "Everything has to move faster,"  in which he visited the sites of regeneration projects including a police station, a school, a prison, and a hospital.

But Amine has lost faith, who has met him twice.

"When Macron comes, he comes to make announcements, not to listen to us."

Benoît Payan mayor of Marseille confesses that he needs to bring his city together.

"For too long my township divided between people one is poor and one is rich. Between those who are considered by the public authorities and those who are not."

It is supposed to be a fundamental French value. But here, égalité (equality) is now an ambition.

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