Burning cars, rioting youths, over-challenged security forces and helpless politicians - these are pictures from the French suburbs, the banlieues, which have gained international media attention since the nation-wide riots in autumn 2005. The so-called "crise des banlieues", the crisis of the suburbs, is not a new issue in France and has been a major challenge for domestic politics in France at least since the 1980s. With the "politique de la ville", a whole set of measures has been set up focusing on difficult urban quarters, especially in the "banlieues". The parallel society is structural in France.
Why are social housing for socially weak families demolished only 20 years after they were built? The high-rise buildings "Debussy" built in the 1960s, demolished in 1986, "Renoir" demolished in 2000, "Ravel" and "Presov" demolished in 2004 and Balzac in 2011 were all victims of an overly optimistic social policy. Housing alone does not create integration and tolerance towards minorities, often with a migrant background.
These apartments, originally for socially weak families in the late phase of the social market economy, remained a retreat for people who did not feel accepted by French society. Integration was mainly an illusion. And this illusion was followed by the illusion of "security policy: With the "Balzac" apartment block, the history of the neighbourhood finally disappeared: On June 19, 2005, little Sid-Ahmed, 11 years old, died in a shooting in front of the "Balzac" apartment block.
The next day, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy paid an unexpected visit to the child's family and made his now famous promise to "clean up the city with a ‘Kärcher'." Of course no power washer arrived, only the stairwells were bricked up because "Balzac" had become an important drug hub in the region. A drug economy that no longer even took place underground but was operated in public. The illusion of a supposed improvement in security soon became apparent when the dealers simply moved. They sold their "goods" a few houses away and again the police did not dare to crack them down, for fear that they would again be held responsible for "abusing" drug dealers. This raises the question: Will this demolition of social housing change the neighbourhood? No, it won't. Drug trafficking is as high today as it was 10 years ago, and the pusher are younger and younger.
These photos now show migrants, families from the Ivory Coast, who occupied the "Balzac" high-rise block between 2009 and 2010. They were evicted. During the winter, the prefecture then paid for their accommodation in hotels. But in April, people found themselves back on the streets. Then the state, the agglomeration municipality and the city hall blamed each other. When I took the photos, people had already been bivouacking for three months about 100 men, women and children, in tents 100 meters from the demolished high-rise "Balzac."
"Shame, shame!" shout the demonstrators. Then "racists, racists!". Of the residents of the still intact high-rises, many of whom are black or Arab, a mother whose child I photograph says, "It's not directed at them, it's directed at the authorities." Then she goes on to explain, "The problem is that people who have housing tend to forget how hard it is for those who live on the streets. So we're here to remind them that we need to be in solidarity, to fight together."
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I'm the founder of “tomorrow’s old hat”, this photo-blog, which is a place of many ramblings about photojournalism. If you find something useful on here, it's probably an accident.
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