PARIS — Two weeks after a spurt of rioting in a far-flung Paris suburb, President Francois Hollande is injecting a new dose of funds to help cure one of France’s most persistent problem areas — the suburban housing projects with their volatile mix of joblessness, high immigration, crime and despair.
The Socialist government is counting on state-sponsored jobs and improved lodging to help the millions of people living in pockets of poverty that ring major cities. Many are immigrants from former French colonies in Muslim North Africa who suffer from discrimination, notably in their search for jobs.
Hollande’s cure, some 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) of direct state investment with the hope it will attract 15 billion euros more, is a small response to a problem that has dogged three presidents and, Hollande has said, has only long-term solutions. But he is optimistic.
The plan was presented to the Cabinet on Friday, two days after Hollande visited Clichy-Sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, the town that since 2005 has symbolized urban unrest. Three weeks of fiery riots that started in Clichy-Sous-Bois hopscotched around the housing projects of France. The unrest was France’s wakeup call to the urban misery long hidden from view, in part because of poor transport to the nearby hub cities.
Two days of riots two weeks ago, with dozens of cars set afire in Trappes, a suburb southwest of Paris, was a new reminder of the simmering anger. The unrest there was triggered by the arrest of a man who allegedly attacked a police officer for ticketing his wife for covering her face with an Islamic veil — banned in French streets. But urban experts and residents said the veil issue covered the deep concerns over unemployment, discrimination, poor integration of many residents and despair over the future.