The port of Calais: dark times ahead? © Elisa Perrigueur
British Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for a frantic series of meetings to convince EU leaders to provide clarifications over her Brexit deal with Brussels, hoping for their help to obtain parliamentary approval of the agreement reached last month for the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc. But for most observers, the chances of avoiding a hard Brexit before the deadline of next March are receding by the day. In the northern French coastal town of Calais, through which tens of millions of tonnes of goods pass yearly in trade between the UK and the continent, many fear catastrophic consequences of a hard Brexit, with the very likely prospect of the Channel port becoming paralysed. Elisa Perrigueur reports.
MP Aina Kuric at a meeting in Reims, November 16th, 2018. © MJ
Aina Kuric is a Member of Parliament for France's ruling La République en Marche party east of Paris and last week she held meetings with members of local volunteer groups, small-town mayors and councillors just as the “gilets jaunes” or yellow hi-vis jacket protests over fuel prices swept across France. In doing so she experienced at first hand the deep divide that is growing between the government and a section of the population increasingly gripped by despair. Mediapart's Manuel Jardinaud joined the MP on the trip to meet her constituents.
One of the rising stars in American socialism, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. © Reuters
The very word has been anathema in America for so long. Yet in the wake of Bernie Sanders' strong showing in the Democratic Party primaries ahead of the last presidential election, more and more Americans are calling themselves “socialists”. Some are even winning elections. Mediapart's New York correspondent Mathieu Magnaudeix gives a pen portrait of some of these new candidates on the American Left who are fighting against capitalism as much as they are combating discrimination.
Emmanuel Macron at the launch of the citizens consultation process at Épinal in north-eastern France on April 17th, 2018. © Élysée
The aim was to allow people to come up with a concept of the “Europe of tomorrow”. Hundreds of public citizen consultations have already been held across France and more will continue into the autumn in a bid to help bring the French people closer to the European Union. Mediapart has visited three such meetings held in northern France, in Dieppe, Issy-les-Moulineaux and one of the seats of the European Parliament, Strasbourg. The Élysée promised they would be no holds barred meetings. But in reality the gatherings have largely attracted people who are already pro-European or who are members of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party La République en Marche. Justine Brabant and Ludovic Lamant report.
Displaced Rohingya demonstrating in a refugee camp in Bangladesh on August 25th. © Reuters
A United Nations report has called for Myanmar’s military to be investigated for genocide against the Rohingya people and for crimes against humanity in the treatment of minority groups in the country. The news follows demonstrations this weekend calling for UN action over the crisis by tens of thousands of Rohingya in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 of the stateless Muslim people have fled since they became the target of a campaign of killings and repression launched in August 2017. As Guillaume Pajot reports from Myanmar, the persecution of Muslims is not limited to the Rohingya, but is widespread in the country whose de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is accused of doing little to prevent.
Opinion was divided on the lakeside beach at Sillé-le-Guillaume in central west France. © Justine Brabant
In an attempt to play down the Benalla affair, the minister for equality Marlène Schiappa claimed that the issue did not interest “the people”. To test this assertion Mediapart went to her political stronghold, the central western city of Le Mans, visiting both its plusher districts where Emmanuel Macron picked up 35% of the first-round vote last year, and more working class areas. As Justine Brabant found, while the affair involving the president's bodyguard dressing in police insignia and beating up protestors has not shaken people's convictions, many profess to be weary of politics – both that of the old world and Macron's “new world”.
A photo of Blessing Matthew taken several years ago in Nigeria. © MM
Earlier this month the body of a 20-year-old Nigerian woman was found floating in the river Durance, in the foothills of the French Alps. Blessing Matthew had crossed illegally into France from Italy along a treacherous route of mountain passes increasingly used by desperate migrants. From witness accounts, it appears likely that Blessing drowned in the icy waters of the Durance while attempting to escape from one of the frequent border patrols which local migrant support groups say employ dangerously heavy-handed methods. One week later, the body of a man believed to be a migrant was found on a nearby mountainside. Mathilde Mathieu reports from the Alpine region where it is feared the springtime thaw may reveal yet more fatalities.
Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Monday April 9th. © JL
A massive police operation to evict environmental activists occupying farmland in north-west France which was until recently earmarked for the construction of an airport began in the early hours of Monday, marked by violent clashes which left several people injured, and is set to continue through the week. The heavy-handed expulsion of occupants of a number of experimental alternative farming projects on the land at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, during which police used stun grenades and tear gas, was accompanied by the destruction of numerous homes and agricultural installations, including an emblematic collective farm on the site which had hoped to gain official approval for its long-term future. Christophe Gueugneau and Jade Lindgaard report from Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
Jérôme Cahuzac (centre) arriving in court on February 12th. © Reuters
At the end of two weeks of hearings, a Paris court on Thursday deferred until May its verdict on the appeal by disgraced former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac against a three-year prison sentence handed to him in 2016 for tax fraud and money laundering. Cahuzac, 65, who Mediapart revealed in 2012 held a secret tax-haven bank account while leading a crackdown on tax fraud, did not contest his conviction, but sought a reduced sentence which would allow him to escape prison. While his lawyers argued that Cahuzac was a “broken” and “finished” man who risked taking his own life if sent behind bars, the prosecution has reiterated its demand for a three-year sentence. Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan was in court to follow the proceedings.
A sketch of a ferry terminal at Calais. © Elisa Perrigueur
Since 1999, an estimated 170 migrants desperately seeking a clandestine passage across the Channel to Britain have died in road accidents in and around the port of Calais in northern France, 37 of them since 2015. One former police officer said the situation became so grim “it was humanly impossible to pick up more bodies from the road”. One of the most recent victims was a 22-year-old Eritrean whose mutilated body was found on a motorway last month after he was run over by a truck whose driver fled the scene. Elisa Perrigueur reports from Calais, where she met with Biniam's relatives as they prepared the return of his body home to north-east Africa.