Back to openDemocracy Email us Powered by TypePad  
political magazine Help bring democracy to the US
political magazine The New oD Today
political magazine China's modernisation and its discontents
political magazine openDemocracy widget
political magazine Goodbye Habeas Corpus
political magazine Dance the guns to silence?
political magazine Don't be a lawyer in China
political magazine Have we hit the ground yet?
political magazine The strange ways of Falungong
political magazine 2000 dead
political magazine April 2006
political magazine December 2005
political magazine November 2005
political magazine October 2005
political magazine September 2005
political magazine August 2005
political magazine July 2005
political magazine June 2005
political magazine May 2005
political magazine April 2005
My Photo oD Today
A weblog from the editors, staff and friends of

« US forces questioned about journalist killings | Main | Katrina pledge »

Paris Burning, Again!

by James Fontanella

“Young lives have been taken away from us due to our own negligence and that of the French government. At the moment, the flames are moving faster than those authorities who have the power to reverse what appears to be a tragic trend. It is important that they act now. Immediately”.
Anonymous immigrant in Paris.

On the night of 29th August at around 10 o'clock, a fire broke out in the Marais quarter in central Paris, engulfing an entire five-story building. The residents were mainly African immigrants waiting for a permanent allocation and authorisation of their residence permits.

Following the initial intervention of the fire brigade, which managed to put out the flames at 11:30 p.m., it seemed as though fire fighters had been able to avoid the tragedy. In fact, the first report stated that no lives had been lost and that only 13 people were injured.

Unfortunately, this information was not confirmed the following morning when the police made an official statement regarding the accident: Seven people remained trapped in the flames and were unable to be saved. Four were children and one of them died in a desperate attempt to save his life by throwing himself out of the window on the fifth floor.

This accident is not the first of its kind. Three nights earlier, another fire broke out in the city in the 13th arrondissement, in which 17 people lost their lives, 14 of them children. Furthermore, we can also recall the fire which burned down the Hotel Paris-Opéra in April. Then 11 adults and 10 children lost their lives in the flames.

The common denominator which characterises these tragedies, is that all the apartments burned down were inhabited by African immigrants. In the majority of cases, they are sans-papier (without documents), awaiting asylum and authorisation of their stay within French territory. However, those who lived in the block that was ablaze last week were all legal immigrants working mainly for the city council.

This common denominator, which sees African immigrants living in deplorable conditions, is abhorrent.

The government had promised immediate and prompt intervention after last week's incident. However, this has not been translated into effective action.

Thousands of people demonstrated at the weekend, demanding safe housing for all citizens and immigrants. Many of the protesters are still living in inhuman conditions. The flats, assigned by the government or affiliated agencies to house African immigrants, are often overcrowded. In some cases there are 10 people living in 40 square metres, without electricity or drinking water. The flats are also frequently infested by rats and the buildings are structurally unsafe and run-down. In the 21st century, certain images remind us of the Middle Ages rather than of modern France.

Recent statistics inform that at present there are more than 2,000 families living in buildings which are considered dangerous. The government is aware of this as it is involved, directly or indirectly, with the management of housing. For the time being, only 542 families have settled in appropriate flats: that is safe flats, with water, electricity and heating for the winter. However, over 102,000 families are on the waiting list demanding housing and the government is far from regulating the issue.

The repeated number of fires has yet to awaken a true sentiment of preoccupation. The fear is that these accidents will soon be forgotten and that we will have to wait for the next fire to remind us that intervention is urgently needed.

If this occurs, it will no longer be able to be classified an accident, the government will be responsible for homicide. We cannot just close our eyes and expect that the solution to the problem will pop up on its own. France, which has been trying to defend its social security system, is not facing the clear-cut downfall of a system which is outdated and obsolete. The tragedies of these last days are not accidents, not in the slightest. The mayors of the 3rd, 9th and 13th arrondissements were aware of the living conditions of the African immigrants afflicted by the blaze. Previous experience should have set the basis for change. Instead, a stagnant government has left thousands of immigrants isolated from the rest of society. For, as much as we should disregard and mistrust any kind of conspiracy theory, it is not surprising that many Africans living in Paris have alleged that the government is purposely allocating them these dangerous buildings in order to get rid of them sooner and at a low cost.

This is a fundamental social and political problem which needs to be tackled. It is not acceptable to dismiss such a tragedy by defining it as a simple accident. This tragedy is a consequence of a structural and political failure for which the government is responsible.

What seems to be most worrying is that the current actions taken by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Home Affairs Minister, aimed at helping the affected are far from suitable. Sarkozy declared, “All these squats and shaky buildings will be shut in order to put an end to this dramatic situation.” This might seem positive but the real question is - where is the government going to put the families it kicks out of these tumbledown apartments?

For the time being, the people who managed to escape the flames have been placed in gyms and provisional housing. However, doing this will generate the same nightmare situation that they have already experienced. The vicious cycle will start over again, with African immigrants living in precarious and insecure conditions.

It is imperative that these blazes mark the beginning of a new approach to the problem. It is crucial that those who were able to escape from the flames get a chance to start a normal life in a place that can guarantee them a minimum level of comfort and stability.

This responsibility is in the hands of the local communities, which are aware of the many obsolete buildings housing immigrants, and the national government. Local communities have the power to pressurise the national authorities and demand their intervention. On the other hand, the government is forced in the short-term to give some kind of concrete response to the recent tragedies. However, the banal and obvious risk is to forget those who continue to live in deplorable conditions and this risk cannot be taken, not again.

August 31, 2005 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Paris Burning, Again!:


Great work.

Posted by: phentermine | 2 Jun 2007 08:42:14

Antlager cliopter.

Posted by: propecia | 3 Jun 2007 14:28:11

KcemAo gps34JsDl901Wp4kV

Posted by: dust | 15 Sep 2008 21:49:22

Betty was sucking one guy’s cock while another was fucking her zootube sex =) youv tube

Posted by: kickboxing | 1 Jan 2009 16:15:02

suck my nipples, suck my breasts" and she leant forward slightly to offer up her heavy left breast to my mouth better than imagefap :)) you tube headquarters

Posted by: imagefap | 5 Jan 2009 14:58:08

wewekjfngkm plus 8 on you tube uortouiretie marie mccray tube8

Posted by: bizonq | 28 Feb 2009 15:07:57

wfhg wevdfw how to perform oral sex on a women wfnwehfwe xxx website income

Posted by: adbelle | 20 Mar 2009 03:08:35

casdfowrkg nudist teen girls qfjqwfq how do i have sex with a anilal

Posted by: adney | 27 Mar 2009 17:34:26

wfrgvkbwj rvw wife wants to have sex with a black man qefjiwem giada delaurentis bikini pics

Posted by: adreana | 2 Apr 2009 01:42:32

rgtbjh werbjnjn big cock fuck fwbjhrb gbk ewf moteur de recherche de site gay

Posted by: adwoa | 2 Apr 2009 09:33:14

rgvqoknfw funny and embarrassing gay and lesbian stories q3fhwkbhgnr vanessa hud naked photo high school musical

Posted by: aegaea | 3 Apr 2009 22:00:32

qifnqekfqwfjlqjbf live nude cams quyhbfqekdq how to become a porn star

Posted by: aegates | 4 Apr 2009 00:02:02

grbvewjikl how to suck a dick oqjfgkwngjeg moms fuck ladies

Posted by: agq | 7 Apr 2009 04:37:46

wgrthbvqoe preteen sex links qegjkrthyjuj ktbs jully 22 07 video footage on natch la teens die hannah moran

Posted by: aethelmaere | 12 Apr 2009 04:59:22

qwfgehrtnm photo blog analingus whejtymg symptoms of blocked anal glands in dogs

Posted by: wfgehrt | 21 May 2009 04:05:11

rthjerfgtdh risk analysis on it gthyn m anal sex with woman

Posted by: wfergth | 22 May 2009 08:01:40

wefrgd black and naked wergtdb pleasure of a naked woman

Posted by: wef | 4 Jun 2009 07:39:57

wesfdrf ron weasley and harry potter both naked hogworts rwfrgt naked girlfriend video

Posted by: wfe | 4 Jun 2009 17:03:56

wesfdrgtf naked surrender white r3wt4er photography of 6 year old girls naked

Posted by: wdefr | 5 Jun 2009 09:01:19

wesdfvbg free nude foot fetish rgthredg nude black 40 year old amateur model billie

Posted by: adsfrsf | 9 Jun 2009 23:26:33

The comments to this entry are closed.

Back to openDemocracy Email us Powered by TypePad