African leader condemns state of Paris housing

29th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 28 (AFP) - An African government minister condemned the French capital's public housing on Sunday after visiting immigrant families made homeless by a fire that killed 14 children and three adults.

PARIS, Aug 28 (AFP) - An African government minister condemned the French capital's public housing on Sunday after visiting immigrant families made homeless by a fire that killed 14 children and three adults.

The combination of rundown buildings and immigrant families trapped in a cycle of poverty and limited employment prospects in Paris is an "explosive cocktail", Mali's Minister for Malians Overseas and African Integration Hamadoun Dicko told French public radio.

A spokesman for the victims staying in a gymnasium provided by the Paris municipality said they would not leave until they had solid offers of decent housing.

The minister's remarks came as city hall defended its public housing record, noting that half of the 1,000 substandard apartment buildings identified in 2001 were renovated under a programme costing EUR 152 million (US $187 million).

The municipality has financed 15,000 new public housing apartments and aims to add 4,000 more this year, city hall said in a statement.

However, 100,000 families on modest or low incomes competed for just 12,000 available subsidised homes in the city last year.

"Two fires in three, four months says something. There is really a problem of worsening housing conditions in general," Dicko told Radio France Internationale after meeting the families and fire investigators.

A fire early on Friday tore through a charity-run apartment building in the city's 13ème arrondissement that housed 130 people of Malian, Senegalese, Gambian and Ivorian origin.

It followed a blaze in April that killed 24 people, many of them children, in a hotel providing temporary accommodation for mostly African families in an upmarket shopping district.

"Many citizens are in extremely difficult situations in completely rundown and overcrowded buildings," Dicko told RFI.

"Access to private housing has become very difficult for poor people and for all those who are victims of precarious employment. The French authorities have to get to grips with this problem," he said.

Caretaker of the burned building, Omar Cisse, told AFP on Sunday that the families made homeless by the latest fire would refuse to leave the gymnasium until all of them were housed.

City hall has organised buses to take the children to school when classes resume next week, he said.

"We are suspicious of hotels or hostels. For us, it's like a game of hide and seek," Cisse said. "The value of a man is in his promises. The mayor said he would rehouse us and we believe him."

The charity Abbé Pierre Foundation estimates that more than three million people live in substandard housing in France, one third of whom lack basic facilities such as heating and private bathrooms.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, fire, subsidized housing, low-cost housing, immigration, Mali, Hamadoun Dicko, Abbé Pierre Foundation

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