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.
In an extraordinary move, American tech giant Apple this week applied before a Paris court for a three-year ban to be imposed on alter-globalisation group ATTAC from continuing with its recent demonstrations at the company’s stores in France in a campaign to denounce its tax-dodging practices. Mediapart economics and business correspondent Martine Orange was in court to follow the hearing which, she reports here, has above all served to further tarnish the iPhone maker's image.
Migrants living rough in Calais, February 2nd, 2018. © Elisa Perrigueur
A recent battle between groups of migrants in Calais left 21 people injured, including five with gunshot wounds. Four were left in a critical condition. Local voluntary groups on the ground say that the situation in the Channel port town has got worse in recent weeks, notably after a visit by President Emmanuel Macron and because of a policy of not allowing any new migrant camps to spring up. Elisa Perrigueur reports from Calais.
Demonstrators in Tunis earlier this month demanding an end to new austerity measures. © L. B.
Austerity measures imposed in Tunisia at the start of the year in a new public finance law, and which follow a multi-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund, sparked demonstrations across the country earlier this month that were marked by violence. The protests were mostly mounted by the younger population, particularly affected by rising living costs and unemployment. The unrest has rocked the government, whose authoritarian reaction has prompted some observers to draw parallels with the events that led to the downfall in 2011 of Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Lilia Blaise reports from the capital Tunis.
The village of Saint-Éloy-la-Glacière. © Nell van den Bosch
With the steady desertification of many areas of rural France has come a parallel invasion of forests reclaiming abandoned land. A combination of unsustainable and mismanaged forests, many hurriedly planted to provide timber for the post-war reconstruction, and the division of private forestland into myriads of tiny plots has resulted in disfigured landscapes and villages overrun by fir and spruce trees. The problem is nowhere more acute than in the Puy-de-Dôme département in central France, from where Aurore Staiger reports on the efforts of local officials to claim back the landscapes of the past and to reorganise woodland within a diverse and sustainable environment.
Pro-independence militant Darewa Dianou: “They killed my father and, afterwards, they come and tell us that they will de-colonise us?" © ES
The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, which became a French colony in 1853, will hold a referendum next year on the proposition of self-rule. The referendum is the result of 30 years of a political process to ease tensions between pro-independence militants from the indigenous Kanak population, which make up about 45% of the archipelago’s 270,000 inhabitants, and ethnic Europeans. A key issue of the referendum will be the extent of involvement of the young generation, and in particular young Kanaks who are the worst affected by high unemployment and educational failure. Ellen Salvi reports from New Caledonia.
The charred remains of a forest close to Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, after wildfires in late July 2017. © Reuters
Huge forest fires in the north of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica this weekend destroyed more than 2,000 hectares (about 5,000 acres) of vegetation, as blazes continue to unfold in southern France amid exceptionally dry conditions. In late July, an estimated 7,500 hectares of countryside were devastated by wildfires, mostly in the Provence region, stretching the fire services to their limit. While President Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, have heaped praise on the efficiency and courage of France’s firefighters, many of the latter are angry that the country’s fire services are depleted by budget cuts, with insufficient and ageing equipment and a shortfall in their numbers. Elsa Sabado travelled to the Var département, the worst hit by the wildfires, to hear their complaints.