After the riots

In the wake of its worst urban violence in 40 years, France vows to improve conditions in disadvantaged areas.

Published November 10, 2005 5:20PM (EST)

Some 40 French towns and suburbs, ravaged by 13 nights of rioting, were Wednesday given powers to impose emergency measures, including curfews, as further details emerged of a government aid package for depressed suburbs.

Officials said France's worst urban violence in 40 years seemed to be running out of steam, with half as many cars going up in flames in half as many towns as on previous nights. "We are seeing a sharp drop in hostile acts," said the national police chief, Michel Gaudin.

The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, ordered the deportation of all foreign nationals found guilty of participating in the riots, including those with residence permits. "When one has the honor to have a permit, one should not be caught provoking urban violence," he said.

Copycat arson attacks were reported in Germany and Belgium for the third day running, though police said they were small-scale incidents and not gang related.

Nine cars have been set alight in Berlin since the weekend, compared with hundreds a night in France. "These appear to be individual acts," said a German police spokesman. "Our situation is nothing like Paris. There is only a marginal connection."

Despite some media criticism and fears that the emergency measures -- never before used in mainland France -- would prove a further provocation, a poll for Le Parisien newspaper showed that a large majority of French people back the government's stance: 73 percent said they supported the decision to give selected local officials the power to impose nighttime curfews.

Major cities such as Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon and Toulouse, as well as the Paris suburbs, were given emergency powers, in force for the next 12 days. Only half a dozen towns had actually imposed curfews, on minors, by late Wednesday.

An extra 1,000 police were brought in overnight, bringing the total on duty across the country to 11,500. Residents in several towns organized patrols, taking turns in standing guard with fire extinguishers over apartment buildings, car parks and local facilities such as schools and social centers.

The government released details of a package of measures to improve conditions in the suburbs of major cities, aimed mainly at ensuring that the education system serves North African and black youths better and improves their chances of getting a job. All unemployed people under 25 and living in one of the 750 sensitive suburbs will be assessed by job centers and given guidance and work placements. Benefit claimants will get a one-off 1,000-euro payment to return to work as well as 150 euros a month for 12 months. Companies will be given tax breaks if they set up on or near these suburbs.

Some 5,000 extra teachers and educational assistants are to be recruited for schools serving the suburbs concerned, 10,000 scholarships will be awarded next year to encourage academic achievers to stay at school, and 10 boarding schools will be created for those who want to study away from their suburb. The school-leaving age will be lowered to 14 for underachieving pupils eager to take up an apprenticeship.

A national agency for "social cohesion and equality of opportunity" is to be set up, and an extra 100 million euros allocated to community organizations active in youth and social work.

There were growing signs Wednesday that the riots may unsettle the French economy. The euro came under pressure as concerns grew about the impact of the riots on tourism and consumer confidence.

This article has been provided by the Guardian through a special arrangement with Salon. ) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005. Visit the Guardian's Web site at

By Jon Henley

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