Posts Tagged ‘jerks’

Just a South-of-France update, for those of you who are interested in social justice and/or camping in the great outdoors for months on end with no toilets or running water.

The local administrative court in Marseille has just approved a decree authorizing the evacuation (read: expulsion) of a Roma encampment near the city’s Porte d’Aix, which you might remember as the sad southern cousin of the Arc de Triomphe. The neighborhood is at the edge of Marseille, near the highway that leads to Aix-en-Provence (Hence “The door of Aix”. They make so much sense, these Frenchmen.), and every day (well, four days a week) for seven months, when I returned to Marseille from Martigues or Aix-en-Provence, I would pass the tent city on the side of the road,  frequently illuminated by bonfires and animated by children playing, surrounded by the most ordinary of life’s detritus: broken strollers, plastic bags, food scraps.

By most accounts, the place was disgusting, probably extremely unsanitary, and its residents would undoubtedly have benefitted from a better living situation. The problem is, however, that their current situation is being taken away from them, with no real alternatives being proposed. Several times since the beginning of the national campaign against the gypsies who are just bringin’ everybody down in France, humanitarian groups have spoken up to suggest Emergency Housing Centers and work programs for these immigrants, many of whom, as illegal immigrants, aren’t allowed to work in France, make their living on petty crimes and begging. But it is rare for such centers to materialize, as a well-publicized announcement in February to open an emergency center in April has failed to yield any tangible results in Marseille. And even when such centers do open, they are likely to close soon after due to lack of funding or general ineffectiveness.

The camp is periodically evacuated, but after several weeks or months, the debris reappears, the bonfire resumes, and it’s business as usual for its residents. By most indications, this expulsion does not appear to be any different, but the process grows tiring, and city leaders can only effectively express sympathy to the tent city inhabitants’ plight for so long. Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin, justifies the expulsion from a humanitarian perspective: “conditions of despicableness [I am dubious about this translation, WordReference], extreme precariousness, insecurity and wretchedness”. So sure, the living conditions are terrible, JC. Are you going to suggest long-term positive social change? Probably, right? This guy sounds legit.

“These people, there are too many of them, we wish they’d go somewhere else.” – Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin, five days earlier.


Yes, because of this encampment, the Porte d’Aix neighborhood by the Gare St. Charles has a distinctly shoddy feel. People living without water or toilets are risking their health, yes! They shouldn’t have to stay there!  But forcing them out without offering up a viable Plan B is just dooming this population to repeat this same exact story time and time again in a kind of bizarro Whack-A-Mole situation. And full disclosure, I might not be as interested in this if I hadn’t witnessed the comings and goings of this particular camp for seven months. This is by far the most esoteric and self-serving post this blog has seen. Not sure why you’re still reading. But it gives me a good soapbox from which I can chastise this group of lawmakers for treating the symptoms, and not the causes of a population in crisis.

Obviously this is all indicative of a larger trend in France, as you may remember Sarkozy ranting against the damage Roma do to the fabric of society blah blah et cetera. But as much as news stories and blog posts and public forums are dedicated to the reasoning behind their expulsion, next to no one talks about the end result: where do these people go? When you’ve built a life, however modest, what must it feel like to be told that not just you but your entire ethnic group has to abandon it? It turns out, it’s all the more cruel when the French government has decided that their destination is going to be You-don’t-gotta-go-home-but-you-gotta-get-the-hell-up-out-of-here-istan.

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