The French government is moving to expel foreigners detained by police in the violence that has rocked the country. It is also hoping that last night’s relative calm will be repeated. It appears that emergency curfew powers introduced to smother the riots have had some effect, although trouble did flare in several cities. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed tough action against the perpetrators.
“Police have arrested 120 foreigners, not all of them living here illegally,” he told parliament. “Whatever their status – whether they have a residence permit or not – I have asked our prefects to expel these people from our country.”
But such short-term action will not convince everyone. “I think that the measures just taken are there to extinguish a fire, but the real causes of the fire are not being properly addressed,” one passer-by in Paris said. “There is a huge problem of education at the root of this,” another added. And not just education, say observers – there is also a major problem of a lack of opportunities – particularly jobs – in run-down suburbs.
“Young people and teenagers need to have a lot more things to do – at the moment they don’t have much,” one woman in Marseille remarked. The riots have led to much soul-searching over longstanding policies on integrating immigrants into French society.