Reports

  • The rural slums spreading in the shadow of France's housing crisis

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    The Fondation Abbé Pierre, one of France’s leading charitable foundations dedicated to eradicating bad housing conditions endured by the country’s poorest social categories, today released its 18th annual report on the state of the French housing crisis. It estimates that 3.6 million people in France live in rotten housing conditions, ranging from the dilapidated to the thoroughly insalubrious.  Most of these properties are situated in major towns and cities, but the report also sounds the alarm at the overlooked situation in France’s economically declining rural and semi-rural regions, where increasing numbers of the nearby urban population are fleeing to escape the housing crisis. Renaud Ceccotti reports from a rural area close to Paris where he met with a family whose descent into semi-slum living conditions is typical of many.

  • How a moribund steel region has found a lifeline – and jobs – in Luxembourg

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    A Hayange. © (dr) A Hayange. © (dr)

    Town after town looks on in horror and dismay as the furnaces close down in the Fensch Valley in Lorraine in north-east France. The only lifeline left to the locals is the nearby Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the shape of its banks and its factories. Nearly 80,000 workers from the Lorraine region now make the daily commute to tap the growth and higher pay on the other side of the border. Rachida El Azzouzi reports.

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

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    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.

  • From life on the road to housing estates: the uneasy transition for travellers

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    Entre les caravanes et les algeccos, les habitants ont créé une petite cour. Entre les caravanes et les algeccos, les habitants ont créé une petite cour.

    All across France travellers – including Gypsies from various different communities – live in caravans at makeshift campsites with the bare minimum of sanitation and other facilities. A few local authorities have decided to rehouse them in new, permanent homes, and Strasbourg in north-east France is currently building the largest traveller estate of its kind in the country. But as Noemie Rousseau reports from there, even when new homes are available, it is not always easy for people used to the open road to adapt their culture to living between four walls.

  • Trapped in an industrial wasteland

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    Serge Baroni, dans sa maison du quartier de la Soie © Simon Castel Serge Baroni, dans sa maison du quartier de la Soie © Simon Castel

    The town of Givet, in the Ardennes region of north-east France, was once a flourishing industrial site, its earliest factories dating back to the late 18th century. Today, however, Givet is studded with industrial wastelands, the landmarks of a steady decline that began in the 1980s and which has accelerated over recent years. Little by little, seemingly without any fuss or mass layoffs, the town has lost its lifeblood, reaching a point of almost complete de-industrialisation. Simon Castel reports on the despair and gloom of a population trapped in crisis.

  • How barren is my valley: an everyday story of France's disappearing industrial fabric

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     © L.B. © L.B.

    It’s a story of everyday France, of a provincial region slowly dying through disindustrialisation, with mounting unemployment and a young population that sees no future worth planning for. In the Andelle valley in Normandy, factories once flourished. Now, the plants that haven’t yet closed are either scaling down the workforce or hiring mostly temporary staff. In a region just 90 kilometres from Paris, 25% of young men aged 15-24, and 35% of young women, are unemployed. Without transport, public or private, to travel farther afield for work, many young adults are caught in a spiral of odd-jobbing and signing on the dole. Liza Fabbian reports from a region that illustrates the grim reality of France’s disappearing industrial fabric.

  • French Catholic Church begins open battle with Hollande over same-sex marriage law

    The French Catholic Church this week organized the reading of a prayer in churches across the country against President François Hollande’s plans to legalize same-sex marriages and to grant child adoption rights to gay couples. The ‘Prayer for France’ was read by priests and parishioners during the traditional yearly Assumption Day Mass on August 15th, directed at politicians "so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands". While the move outraged gay rights groups and set the Church on a collision course with government, it also divided some congregations - nowhere more so than those in the Marais ‘gay quarter’ of Paris, where Mathilde Mathieu and Michaël Hajdenberg spoke to parishioners and priests.   

  • 'Hollande has done nothing – the factory is closing and he hasn't met us'

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    A l'entrée de l'usine. © (dr) A l'entrée de l'usine. © (dr)

    It is the first big social test of President François Hollande's new government. The giant French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroën has announced it is shedding 8,000 jobs, including the closure of a plant at Aulnay-sous-Bois on the outskirts of Paris. Unions have described the news as a “declaration of war”and workers have pledged to fight the factory closure all the way. President Hollande has said the cuts are “unacceptable” and told Peugeot to re-negotiate with employees. But the new government has itself come under fire from workers and unions for not putting enough pressure on the car manufacturer. Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi and Ellen Salvi went to Aulnay to meet the workforce.

  • The massacre of Europe's ancient olive groves

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     © phr © phr

    They are now about to end their lives amusing the nouveau rich beside swimming pools and on golf courses. The unluckiest will be replanted as zoo-like curiosities in ornamental gardens in northern Europe, even Russia, where the cold and lack of light will turn them sterile. At the current rate of uprooting, these majestic and viable olive trees, many hundreds of years old, some even a thousand years old, will have entirely disappeared from southern Portugal and Spain in the space of a generation. Philippe Riès reports on an ecological and cultural disaster caused by the perverse effects of European Union agricultural policies.

  • François Hollande is elected French president

     © Thomas Haley © Thomas Haley

    Socialist Party candidate François Hollande has won the French presidential elections. Official results announced by the interior ministry at 1 a.m. Monday gave Hollande a 51.67% share of the vote in mainland France, but excluding the results from French expatriate votes. Hollande’s victory over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, credited with 48.33%, is the first time a socialist has been elected president since François Mitterrand won a second term of office in 1988 and ends 17 years of uninterrupted conservative occupancy of the post. Hollande, 57, will now formally enter office mid-May, when he will appoint a prime minister to form a caretaker government until parliamentary elections are held in June. “I have confidence in France, I know it well, I know we are capable of straightening ourselves up," Hollande said in a victory speech on Sunday evening. “It is this French dream that I will make it my job to accomplish." Sarkozy, meanwhile, said he accepted "full responsibility" for his defeat and announced he was quitting front-line politics. "My place can no longer be the same" he said, "another era is underway".