The Bosquet estate on the outskirts of Paris, one year after the explosion of violence that dragged France’s urban hotspots out of the shadows. The place is a wreck, as social worker and resident of Clichy Gounedy Traore shows us: “Nothing’s changed, on the contrary it’s worse. Most of the youth have no work, and our organisations get no subsidies. There’s nothing left. Kids don’t know which way to turn, it’s all more complicated than before”, he says.
According to one poll fighting unemployment and education are people’s priorities for improving the situation in the cities, after that urban regeneration to break up the slums. France’s Employment and Social Cohesion Minister Jean Louis Borloo explains: “We’re faced with catching up with 40 years of failure, but I’ve made a five year programme law; five years of urban renovation, of reinforced teaching, five years of coaching for career success, 20 programmes in all. There’s no point kidding ourselves, you can’t do it all in a couple of years, you need three, four, or five years to complete the task”.
Cracking down on crime only comes fourth in the polls as the way of establishing security. For young people like Ahmed Li, only a spark is needed for things to go up in flames again: “Police stop and search us aggressively, and things get very, very bad, with police brutality. We need the community police back, we liked them, not these hard cases. It’s like dealing with cowboys, and that’s not a good idea”.
Not everything is negative. Volunteer workers like Mehdi Bigaderne are detecting increasing signs of citizenship among the youth: “We saw around one thousand youngsters apply to join the electoral roll in a fortnight; that’s enormous, we’d never seen that before”, he enthuses. No-one, least of all the residents, likes ghettos or the stereotypes they generate. Those who live here want an end to the mess, and criticise the government’s desire to solve political problems with more police.