Suburb fears 'Sarkozy's police', but hopes for jobs

8th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

TRAPPES, France, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - With its run-down housing estates and one in five unemployed, residents of the Paris suburb of Trappes fear a police crackdown under Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing presidency -- but also hope he can deliver them jobs.

TRAPPES, France, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - With its run-down housing estates and one in five unemployed, residents of the Paris suburb of Trappes fear a police crackdown under Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing presidency -- but also hope he can deliver them jobs.

"Worried and disappointed," summed up Mohammed, a student at the Paris Sorbonne, in response to Sarkozy's victory over the Socialist Segolene Royal. "For once we got involved in political life, and it feels like we counted for nothing."

"The youngest kids here are in a panic: they are expecting immigrant deportations, welfare cutbacks and a crackdown from police."

Across the greater Paris region, most of the estates where poor immigrant populations live put Royal firmly in first place, while Sarkozy netted a majority in more middle-class areas, analysts said.

The entire region of Seine Saint Denis north of Paris, where the 2005 riots first broke out and where Sarkozy's tough talk on crime made him a hate figure, put Royal ahead with 56.54 percent of votes.

Trappes -- home to 70 nationalities and to one of Royal's most enthusiastic supporters, the actor Jamel Debbouze, who starred in the blockbuster "Amelie" -- gave the socialist a thumping 70 percent of its vote.

Residents say the right-winger's victory is a shock. "A predictable shock, but people just couldn't believe it. There has never been such a turnout in the suburbs," said Mohammed Chirani, member of a group set up after the 2005 riots to get suburb residents out to vote.

"Everyone is sorely disappointed," he said.

Royal had warned before the election that a Sarkozy victory could spark reactions of violence in the suburbs.

In the hours after the results, almost 600 people were arrested and 730 cars burned in suburbs nationwide, though there were no attacks on public buildings or large-scale clashes as in the 2005 riots.

Six cars and nine garbage cans were set alight in Trappes -- "and it's going to carry on that way unless the cops fix their attitude," warned Rodrigue Cancan, a 22-year-old from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Standing next to a burnt-out garbage bin, wearing an outsized tracksuit, he eyes a police van parked nearby: "Ever since last night they haven't stopped patrolling, running ID checks -- it's not a good start."

"Now he has five years to beef up his cops with more weapons. They already thought this was the Wild West -- soon they'll have no limits at all," agreed Bemba, an 18-year-old whose parents come from Senegal.

But outside the local job seekers' office in Trappes, where unemployment runs at 18 percent, the message is different.

"After all his Father Christmas promises, we've got Sarkozy in our sights," said Wilfried Metzinger, an unemployed former baggage handler.

"What matters most is work -- he said he would find jobs for us so let's see if he keeps his word."

"We didn't get Sego, that's too bad," said Hubert Bilongo, an electrical technician in between two work contracts.

"But it's true Sarkozy talked about work all the time -- so for people like us who are afraid of the future, of jobs that never come, of the cost of living, we want a president who delivers more than words."

Sarkozy has promised a "Marshall Plan" to provide training for unskilled youth and prevent them from turning to crime, as well as rules obliging the unemployed to take up offered work after two offers.

But Chirani says Sarkozy "will have to act fast" to tackle youth unemployment, which reaches 40 percent in some suburbs.

"Sarkozy campaigned openly denigrating immigrants and finally he says he wants a Marshall Plan for the suburbs. He'd better be sincere because if he sticks to repression only, things will be worse than 2005."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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