Africans slam Sarkozy reaction to Paris fires

8th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

DAKAR, Sept 7 (AFP) - African organizations Wednesday denounced French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the plight of immigrants in France following the housing fires in Paris last month that killed 24 people of African origin.

DAKAR, Sept 7 (AFP) - African organizations Wednesday denounced French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the plight of immigrants in France following the housing fires in Paris last month that killed 24 people of African origin.

After the blazes, Sarkozy ordered police to close squats in the French capital, raising concerns about the relocation of the evicted tenants.

In particular, the African groups took issue with Sarkozy's remarks that "by accepting these people to whom, unfortunately, we can't offer work or housing, we find ourselves in a situation where we have these tragedies," in an interview on August 30.

"It is regrettable that a minister of the French government considers that these dramas are not avoidable and makes such a statement," said Mohammed Khachani, of the Moroccan association for studies and research on migration (AMERM).

"Closing immigrant housing in France is not the solution, because it addresses only the results and not the cause" of the problem, Khachani said.

"Immigration in France is a political card manipulated by the left and the right," Khachani said, adding that it was a "hypocritical discussion which tries to please hardline public opinion. We're not asking France and Europe to glorify immigrants, only not to demonize them."

Mohammed Smida, a member of the national council of the Association of Tunisians in France (ATF), said the solution is to build sufficient social housing.

The housing crisis has not only affected illegal immigrants, but those with papers and paying rent also have been victims of the recent fires, he said.

"Some had already been chased out of squats and were waiting for decent housing for 15 years," Smida said.

France used to be more welcoming toward Africans, but "today Africans who work in France do not have the same rights as others", claimed Hamady Camara, head of an organization of French migrants from Mali.

The answer is not to send the African immigrants back to their homelands, which would only provoke a new trauma, Camara said.

The plight of African immigrants came to public attention last month when a fire broke out in an overcrowded, dilapidated building in Paris, killing 14 children and three adults, all Africans.

It was followed four days later by a blaze in yet another rundown building in Paris where some 40 people from the Ivory Coast lived, that left four children and three adults dead.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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