Reports

  • The agony of France’s medical deserts

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    Many of France’s rural and semi-rural regions have for years been blighted by the gradual but steady decline in the numbers of local doctors, notably general practitioners. The problem is now so acute in some areas that it is virtually impossible for patients, including the seriously ill, to receive proper medical treatment. That is the case in the Seine-et-Marne département (county) which stretches south-east from Paris. Caroline Coq-Chodorge travelled to Souppes-sur-Loing, a town with a population of 6,000 that sits on the southern edge of the département, where the crisis is typical of the medical ‘desertification’ witnessed across France. Facing the imminent loss of all remaining medical professionals, the municipal authorities are planning to fork out 1 million euros in a desperate attempt to attract new doctors, even though healthcare is not their brief.

  • The search for 'secularism' in France's inner cities

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    Dessin d'enfants à l'école maternelle © LD Dessin d'enfants à l'école maternelle © LD

    In its response to the terror attacks in Paris in January the French government emphasised the importance of schools and the central role of secularism in fighting intolerance and extremism. Mediapart recently visited schools in the north of the French city of Amiens, an area which has recently seen riots and where the Moroccan-born education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem herself grew up and was educated. Here the issue of secularism divides teachers, parents and local help groups alike. “I have the impression that, faced with this debate, everyone is a bit lost,” says one teacher. Mediapart's education correspondent Lucie Delaporte reports from the city.

  • Aboard a Mediterranean migrant patrol ship, and the ghost freighter that got away

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    More than 300 migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a clandestine convoy from Libya to Italy were reported drowned this week when their boats overturned off Lampedusa, just days after 29 other seaborne migrants were discovered dead from hypothermia close to the Italian coast. The tragedies follow the narrow rescues in December and January of more than 1,200 Syrian migrants from two rusting ‘ghost’ freighters left abandoned by people smugglers to their fate. Earlier this month, Mediapart’s Carine Fouteau joined the Týr, an Icelandic coastguard ship patrolling the central Mediterranean as part of an operation mounted by the EU border-policing agency Frontex. She heard the harrowing experiences of the Týr’s proud crew who have already rescued 2,000 migrants in difficulty, and questioned Frontex officials about what is an increasingly confused mission. But she begins this report with the dramatic events she witnessed aboard the Týr, when a drifting, apparently crewless rusting freighter suspected of carrying hundreds of migrants in its hold was left to its fate overnight in strong seas - because no-one had sent out an SOS. 

  • France terror attacks prompt historic mass protest marches

     © Graham Tearse © Graham Tearse

    Four days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine, followed by the murders of two police officers and two bloody sieges which saw four people executed in a Jewish supermarket, the people of France have taken to the streets in record numbers - 3.7 million - in a day of solidarity with the 17 victims of the attacks. For the first time in a quarter of a century the French president marched with the people as François Hollande joined more than 40 world leaders on the streets of Paris which he said had become the “capital of the world” for the day. But the most moving part of the massive march between two major squares in Paris, the place de la République and the place de la Nation, part of the biggest public gatherings seen in France since the Liberation in 1944, was the volume of ordinary citizens who turned out to show support for the victims' families and their determination that people's freedoms should not be undermined by terrorists. Mediapart reports on the turnout in words and pictures (updated Monday).

  • The international drugs trade returns to post-war Mali

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    Since the retreat of jihadist forces from northern Mali, and the winding down this year of the French military campaign that forced them out of the area, drugs trafficking has regained its lucrative path across the Sahel region, en route to Europe. Thomas Cantaloube reports from Mali on how the drugs trade has become a major cause of corruption in both the former French colony and the wider region of West Africa, where the transit of drugs is now joined by a dangerous and growing new phenomena, that of drug consumption.

  • The surge of anti-Semitism in a Paris suburb once a model of co-existence

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     © LD © LD

    Earlier this month, the south-east Paris suburb of Créteil became a symbol of the sharp recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes committed in France when a young Jewish couple were the target of a vicious attack by three armed men who had come to rob them because, the assailants explained after their arrest, they were Jewish and therefore rich. The arrested men, who repeatedly raped the young woman victim during the robbery, are also suspected of being behind the beating-up of an elderly Jewish man at his home just weeks earlier. Lucie Delaporte reports from Créteil, where over several weeks, before and after the attack on the young couple, she interviewed members of the Jewish community who spoke candidly of their fears of anti-Semitic violence and why they believe it has become rampant in a suburb once regarded as a model of co-existence between religious and ethnic groups. 

  • The grave humanitarian crisis looming in Calais

    By Haydée Sabéran
     © Reuters © Reuters

    For a second week running, the desperate situation of migrants gathering in the northern French port of Calais in the hope of finding a clandestine passage to Britain has been making headlines on both sides of the Channel. This Tuesday, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart appeared before a largely hostile British parliamentary committee on immigration and warned that the migrants were “ready to die” to reach Britain, which she criticised for focussing on greater security alone as a solution to the recent sharp rise in the numbers of those arriving in Calais from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, many of whom have fled war zones. Most, including women and children, live rough in makeshift camps in and around the town, where racist attacks against them are on the rise and where aid associations complain they can no longer cope with what one major French charity, the Secours Catholique, has warned is an imminent “humanitarian crisis of a size never known here”. Haydée Sabéran reports from Calais on the everyday human misery of the migrants, the despair of those involved in helping them, and lifts the lid on a myth, bolstered by events in the Channel port, that Britain is bearing the brunt of clandestine immigration to Europe.  

  • The mystery of the 'disappeared' of Gaza

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    Quartier de Chajaya, Gaza, septembre 2014 © Pierre Puchot Quartier de Chajaya, Gaza, septembre 2014 © Pierre Puchot

    The International Committee of the Red Cross calls it “a major problem”, while the United Nations says it has no idea of the numbers involved. The one thing that is certain is that at least hundreds of families in Gaza are still looking for relatives who have disappeared without trace following the 50-day Israeli offensive that began in July. For some, the answer may lie beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings that still litter the land. But there is also speculation that other missing Palestinians may be detained in Israel, or have met death as they fled by sea to Europe. Mediapart’s Middle East and North Africa affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot reports from Gaza on an enduring mystery that has become something of a taboo.

  • Temporary jobs and home helps – the future of France's former industrial workers

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    They were once proud industrial towns in the centre of France with thriving populations of 10,000 or more. But now areas such as Saint-Florentin, Tonnerre, Flogny-la-Chapelle in north Burgundy have seen their factories close and the number of inhabitants plummet. Instead of secure factory employment, the remaining workers in such towns now face moving from temporary job to temporary job or retraining for low-paid positions in the booming service sector looking after the elderly. Thomas Saint-Cricq reports from Saint-Florentin on the mood of a town that once was so short of industrial workers it had to scour the Mediterranean countries to find them.

  • French PM Valls wears velvet glove in plea for socialist unity

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    La Rochelle,dimanche. © Yannick Sanchez La Rochelle,dimanche. © Yannick Sanchez

    Amid deepening divisions over government economic policy, France’s ruling Socialist Party held its annual end-of-summer conference this weekend at the port of La Rochelle, in south-west France, culminating with a much awaited speech by prime Minister Manuel Valls. The long-planned venue coincided with the government reshuffle earlier this week which saw the exit from the cabinet of party left-wingers, and notably the arrival of a former banker, Emmanuel Macron, as economy minister in replacement of the outspoken anti-austerity leftist Arnaud Montebourg. Valls, who earlier this week told a conference of the French employers’ federation of his “love” of business, was promised a fiery reception from the rebel Left of his party at his Sunday appearance. From a tense conference hall in La Rochelle, Stéphane Alliès reports on the address by Valls, who defiantly told a small group of journalists afterwards: “A speech will not be sufficient [...] but I’m continuing, I’m not giving up on anything.”