The run-down district of Calais where the only inheritance is poverty


This week a major national conference has been taking place to highlight the crippling level of poverty on France, which affects around 8.6 million people. Ministers, officials, trade unions representatives and workers from local voluntary associates have been meeting to thrash out a plan of action. Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi travelled to Calais in north-west France to see the reality of poverty at first hand. In one area of the town she found that all that is handed down from generation to generation is poverty and unemployment.

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It was in the winter of 1982 that the newly-qualified Jean-Jacques Triquet started out as a social worker in the run-down area of Fort-Nieulay in the north-western town of Calais. And it was in that district of 7,000 inhabitants that the young man had his “first shock”, as he puts it. Here, right on the edge of the town where he was born, he discovered an “underclass”; large numbers of families living in terribly overcrowded conditions surrounded by rubbish. Bare-footed children gnawed on bones, often their only meal, while their jobless parents were incapacitated by alcoholism.