A remarkable book written by four young men has highlighted the reality of life on one of France's many impoverished and neglected housing estates. The work, which began as a writing project with their community worker, and which combines tragic insight with flashes of great humour, tackles issues of education, the police, drugs, prison and even the role of history among the writers and their friends. But, as Joseph Confavreux reports, perhaps the major achievement of 'Nous...La cité' ('We...the estate') is that it has taught four young men from a run-down area the power of the written word.
The security firm GPIS runs a much-envied service safeguarding many of Paris' most difficult social housing estates. But this flagship organisation, which has top-level political links and is funded with public money, stands accused of artificially increasing the number and extent of injuries suffered by its agents in the line of duty in order to increase its budget. Former and current staff also talk of a “climate of fear” and stress at the heart of the organisation and of a management culture that systematically encourages false witness statements in legal proceedings. Louise Fessard investigates.
When French carmaking giant PSA Peugeot-Citroën announced on July 12th it was to close its major assembly plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a deprived suburban town just north of Paris, a ripple of fear ran through the nearby sprawling housing estates. Several, like the infamous ‘Cité des 3000’, were originally built as of 1969 to house the plant’s workers and managers and their families. But they soon became ghettos where immigrants were dumped and unemployment and poverty were rife. While recent renovation helped roll back crime, youth unemployment currently runs at around 40%, and locals are now fearful of the future once more. Rachida El Azzouzi travelled to the Cité des 3000 where many inhabitants regarded PSA's now doomed plant as their last lifeline.