Thousands again protest Paris housing

5th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 3 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters demonstrated in central Paris Saturday to demand proper housing for poor African immigrants in the aftermath of two deadly fires in the last nine days.

PARIS, Sept 3 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters demonstrated in central Paris Saturday to demand proper housing for poor African immigrants in the aftermath of two deadly fires in the last nine days.

Organisers said some 10,000 people -- many of them Africans -- marched with banners from the site of the first fire, an apartment building near the Austerlitz station on the left bank of the Seine in which 17 people including 14 children were killed on August 26.

Police put the figure at 5,000.

The demonstration, which was to end at the Châtelet square in the city centre, was backed by pressure groups and leftwing political parties.

Slogans and posters accused the government of persecution and prejudice.

Demanding urgent funds for investment in low-cost accommodation, marchers also strongly condemned Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for ordering the eviction of squatters from unsafe buildings.

Some 150 Africans were removed by police from two buildings Friday morning, leading to accusations of gesture politics directed at the centre-right government.

"We are here as a sign of solidarity with the evicted families and with those that still live in unhealthy housing, and to demand social housing everywhere," said Marie-George Buffet, leader of the French Communist party.

"You don't settle housing problems by repression," according to Alain Olive, secretary general of a grouping of independent unions.

"We are here to show our solidarity and beyond that to say that the housing crisis must be settled at national level.

"The unions should make housing a key part of their demands, as they always have."

Meanwhile justice officials indicated for the first time that they were looking into a possible criminal explanation for the August 26 fire, which broke out in the stairwell of the seven-storey building.

A judicial investigation opened by the prosecutor's office late Friday cites "willful destruction by the use of fire leading to death", officials said.

An experts' report has shown that the fire spread with suspicious speed, the officials said. However there was no trace of petrol or other inflammable substances.

Investigators are nearly certain that the second fire, which killed seven people in a squat in the fashionable Marais district on Monday, was started accidentally.

The fires -- and a third in April which killed 24 Africans -- have made a public issue of the problems of housing for tens of thousands of poor immigrants in Paris, many of whom have entered the country illegally and have no right to public accommodation.

The Socialist-controlled city council says that some 100,000 people are on the waiting-list for subsidised housing, but only 10,000 places become available every year.

The city council has joined criticism of Sarkozy's policy of evictions from unsafe properties, saying the priority should be urgent investment in renovating sub-standard buildings.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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