A year on, probe into death of French dam protester stalls

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Rémi Fraisse © DR Rémi Fraisse © DR

In October 2014 student Rémi Fraisse was killed by a grenade thrown by a gendarme during a protest over plans to build a dam at Sivens in south-west France. A year later the judicial investigation into the 21-year-old's death has become bogged down. Investigators have sifted through the victim's background but, as Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan reports, they seem no closer to placing any officers under formal investigation or even examining the instructions that those officers were given from on high.

What Calais residents really think about the migrant crisis

By Haydée Sabéran
Une boutique dans la « New Jungle », le 16 octobre 2015 © Philippe Wojazer / Reuters Une boutique dans la « New Jungle », le 16 octobre 2015 © Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

In just a year the number of migrants living in the so-called 'New Jungle' camp at Calais in north-east France waiting to get to the UK has doubled to around 6,000. The migrant question has now become a key issue in December's regional elections, with the head of the far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, standing for the region that includes Calais. But what do the town's residents think about the migrants and their plight? As Haydée Sabéran found out, it is a complex picture.

Legal battle over Muslims' access to pork-free school lunches in France

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With the support of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a right-wing mayor in eastern France is stopping the provision of alternative meals for Muslim pupils in his town's school canteens when pork is on the menu. Mediapart's Michaël Hajdenberg was in court to hear an attempt by a Muslim organisation to get this controversial decision stopped.

The reasons behind France's recurrent deadly floods

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 © Reuters © Reuters

Earlier this month, exceptional rainfall caused flash floods in south-east France that swept through the streets of towns and villages, killing 20 people and causing an estimated 500 million euros of damage. It was the latest in a long list of major catastrophic flooding disasters in the country over the past 27 years. As Michel de Pracontal reports, neither fate nor surprise events explain the causes, but rather the incapacity of public authorities to tackle the prevalent dangers, due in no small part to both rampant urbanisation and bureaucratic nonsense.

How Sarkozy's march back to power reached a blind alley

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 © Reuters © Reuters

Nicolas Sarkozy’s official return to politics last year, when he was elected head of his conservative opposition party, was, his supporters believed, the start of a relatively easy march back to power in elections due in 2017. But the wily former French president, once considered a masterful political tactician, appears to have lost his grip, unable to offer policy initiatives and mired in infighting and scandal. Ellen Salvi hears from party insiders in this analysis of where it has all gone wrong for the man who, a former aide admits, “wants to regain power for the sake of regaining power”.

The French internment camp that symbolizes the shameful fate of refugees

Arrivée de réfugiés espagnols fuyant Franco © Mémorial du camp de Rivesaltes Arrivée de réfugiés espagnols fuyant Franco © Mémorial du camp de Rivesaltes

Between 1941 and 1964, a total of 60,000 people were interned in a camp at Rivesaltes in south-west France, close to the border with Spain. The successive waves of internees included Spanish Republican refugees, Jews and Roma during the German occupation of France in World War II, and later Algerian Harki soldiers and their families who had sided with French forces during their country’s bitter war of independence. On Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls inaugurated a major memorial centre at the notorious camp and which highlights widespread political hypocrisy in face of the current refugee crisis. Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports on the history of the camp and its belated memorial centre, a project of 17 years in the making.

Migration study finds dramatic rise in numbers leaving France

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The numbers of people leaving France to live abroad has risen dramatically over the past eight years in comparison to the numbers of those taking up residence in the country, according to a study published this week by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. The institute also found that immigration now accounts for a relatively small proportion of the growth in the French population. Michel de Pracontal reports.

Defining the troubled notion of secularism in France

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Jean-Louis Bianco is head of France’s Secularism Monitoring Centre, a public body that advises public institutions, local authorities and the private sector, among others, on the country’s laws on secularity and their application. Amid an increasingly tense political debate over multiculturalism in France, the legislation has rarely been so fiercely championed - but also brought into question. To address the misunderstandings by both camps, Bianco travels France each week to discuss the principle and the detail of the law with various sections of the population. Mathieu Magnaudeix followed him on one such trip to a small town in north-east France.

The everyday misery behind Paris cleaning agents' strike

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For the past three weeks, a group of about fifty cleaning agents employed in the upkeep of publicly-run subsidised social housing projects in Paris and its nearby suburbs have led a strike over pay and working conditions. The movement, which has received no press coverage, reveals the poor and widely ignored professional environment of a vulnerable workforce paid less than the monthly minimum fulltime wage. Mathilde Goanec reports.

Prosecutor demands suspended jail term for top Sarkozy aide in ministry cash scam

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At the end of an eight-day trial in Paris of five prefects charged with embezzling public funds, prosecutors have demanded a 30-month suspended jail sentence and a 75,000-euro fine for Nicolas Sarkozy’s former chief of staff and ex-interior minister, Claude Guéant, who they described as playing “the leading role” in a scam that siphoned off 210,000 euros in cash reserved for police investigations. Michel Deléan reports.

Unions warn against 'divisive' Air France strategy after assault on executives

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Le DRH d'Air France violemment pris à partie par les manifestants © Reuters Le DRH d'Air France violemment pris à partie par les manifestants © Reuters

The physical attacks upon two Air France executives on Monday by a small group of airline staff protesting a plan of job losses has been widely condemned by trade unions, management and government. The assaults, in which the Human Resources director and the long-haul flight manager had their clothing ripped off, dramatically underlined the high tensions within the struggling airline over its announcement it is to shed 2,900 jobs over the next two years. Mathilde Goanec and Dan Israel report.

The growing tension between farmers and the French state

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Two health and safety inspectors believe their car was deliberately sabotaged during a visit to a market gardener in west France, and are furious that prosecutors dropped their investigation. The affair highlights mounting tension between state officials and farmers as the latter protest about low prices and as the government tries to placate farmers' ire by telling officials to ease off on their inspections. Mathilde Goanec reports.

Blatter's final play: stopping Frenchman Michel Platini from heading FIFA

By Antoine Grynbaum
Michel Platini © Reuters Michel Platini © Reuters

Sepp Blatter, the head of football's ruling body FIFA, and former French star Michel Platini are now in the sights of the Swiss judicial authorities. Blatter is being investigated for “criminal mismanagement”, while questions have been raised over an allegedly “underhand” payment the Frenchman received from the FIFA boss. Football writer Antoine Grynbaum describes how the once-close relationship between the two men turned sour and what it means for Platini's own bid for football's top job.  

Centrists force Sarkozy to ditch ally over 'white race' France comments

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A leading candidate from the right-wing Les Républicains (LR) party looks set to be de-selected from December's regional elections after she described France as a “white race” country. However, party boss Nicolas Sarkozy only ditched loyalist Nadine Morano after days of public controversy and mounting pressure from the party's centrist allies. As Ellen Salvi reports, the episode highlights the divide between the views of the LR leadership and those of grassroots members.

Former French interior minister in dock over cash payments

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Claude Guéant, Nicolas Sarkozy's former chief of staff and interior minister, one-time national police chief Michel Gaudin and three other top officials who worked for the ex-president are in court this week, accused of misappropriating public funds by receiving tens of thousands of euros in cash payments. The money was siphoned off from a ministerial fund supposed to pay for police investigations. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan reports.