Before the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, entered the Elysee Palace, field studies conducted by the Montaigne Institute showed that the percentage of voter abstention in poor suburbs in the 2017 presidential elections was 48% compared to 29% in the country as a whole. . ,
This percentage was considered a natural reflection of the deep crisis of trust in the authorities in those areas due to the failure of successive policies towards those of majority immigrant origin.
The French are waiting to see how this dilemma will be dealt with, following the emergence of Gabriel Attal, the youngest Prime Minister in the history of the Republic, who is of immigrant origin and one of President Macron's closest allies and his standard-bearer. Are seen as.
right wing politics
Before entering the Elysee, Atal had already submitted reform plans to the Ministry of Education under the banner of “reducing the social gap” in educational institutions by offering to reinstate school uniforms, provided that the measure was supported by approximately 500 volunteers. Went through trial period in. To test its impact on the success of schools, school uniforms. School year.
But in the eyes of observers, the most complex test facing Atal will relate to his ability to overcome the wide gap between social conditions in the suburbs and the rest of France.
While the Prime Minister was expected to deliver a dose of revitalizing slogans and values of the Left, his public policy speech was not without the right to speak in its own vocabulary.
This includes his talk about protecting “French identity and pride” and taking comprehensive measures to control the system and “reengage lost youth”. He even raised his point about “abnormality” as one of the criteria for change in the highest government apparatus in France. 2024.
Following the move to reform employment insurance – which is one of the social reforms approved at the end of 2021, and includes tightening restrictions on the use of compensation for job seekers and the unemployed – Atal wants to go further, which That is, review the procedure for calculating unemployment grants for job seekers, since beneficiaries of social grants are obliged to engage in professional activity and receive training for a period of at least 15 hours per week.
In early 2024, the government launched a platform to register beneficiaries of these grants and link them to the new terms. Therefore, the unemployed and job seekers will not receive social grants automatically, but rather according to a new contract with the state, a demand that the right-wing movement has often promoted in the past.
The government says the move is intended to pave the way for reintegration into the labor market, as social grants will not be enough to keep individuals out of need.
But in practice, the measure is seen as a blow to poor suburban areas, or “priority neighbourhoods” as they are called, since a quarter of these areas would benefit from “active social solidarity” income. Which is almost double the rate. Rest of the country.
The matter is not only related to a decline in opportunities in the labor market, but these regions already suffer from wide disparities in income rates compared to the rest of France.
The French statistics platform, Statista, describes the suburbs as a mirror of a social cleavage and the absence of social justice.
Its combined data shows a clear difference in the level of average income of 1,168 euros per capita in the suburbs compared to 1,822 nationally, and a clear difference in the level of poverty rate of more than 43% in the suburbs compared to 15% . Nationally, and is also associated with an unemployment rate of over 18% compared to 7% in the suburbs.
Michel Kokorev, a sociology researcher at the University of Paris, told Oronews network that there is a kind of racial barrier in France, “despite its reputation as a country of human rights and its adherence to the declaration of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, etc.”
Kokorev gives an example of this in his comment: “In fact, when your name is Boubacar, or of Malian origin, finding a job is even more complicated than when your name is Bernard and your parents are from Brittany (north-western “(region) of France. It is a country of equality on paper.” Inequality and injustice in reality.
In parallel with the changes in the government apparatus and the policies announced with the new Prime Minister, official institutions did not delay in presenting social indicators, which especially included the situation in the suburbs.
Figures from the Statistics Authority of the Ministry of Interior indicate an increase in all types of crimes and misdemeanors in the country in 2023.
Battery crimes increased by 7%, and rape crimes and attempted rape increased by almost 10%, while murder and attempted murder continued to rise from 2020, as the number of victims of these crimes increased by more than a thousand last year. While there were more than 4,000 people. Subject to attempted murder.
Although theft on public transport and crimes of sexual violence declined in 2023, the Interior Ministry reported that the majority of those committing these crimes are between the ages of 15 and 24.
In parallel, targeted thefts of industrial and commercial establishments tripled and cases of car theft increased by 27%.
The biggest concern for French officials remains the state of the suburbs, which poses the biggest challenge for the new prime minister.
Returning to the events following the murder of Nahil, a young man of Algerian origin, who was shot by a policeman in the city of Nanterre, a 140% increase in riots and deliberate vandalism by angry protesters in the suburbs in the period between June and Hui. July 2023 compared to the same period last year.
These protests prompted authorities to mobilize approximately 45,000 police officers to rein in the regime.
There are fears that these indicators from the Interior Ministry are a prelude to a more extreme policy towards the more than 5.2 million residents of the poor suburbs and more restrictions on immigrants in general under pressure from the extreme right.
pour oil on the fire
In his conversation with Al Jazeera Net, Abdel Majid Marari, a lawyer specializing in international law and director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the AFDI human rights organization in Paris, explained that Atal's appointment does not send a message of reassurance. in these areas, and does not indicate the Government's willingness to reconcile with a section of the people. The French, regardless of their immigrant origins, are active citizens in many important sectors and in high positions in the country.
This human rights activist did not hesitate to describe this appointment as “pouring oil on the fire”.
Marari cites this in addition to Atal's tough stance on immigration and the Muslim minority, as well as steps taken to reform the education sector, including a project to ban the abaya in schools under the pretext of “protecting secularism”.
He told Al Jazeera Net, “These reforms have proven their failure, as shown by the continued attacks in the region, which shows the continuation of the crisis. At the same time, the situation declared in his new position is a social war. “
In his declaration of public policy, Atal promised to implement rights “everywhere, in the classroom, in the family and on the streets”. He also announced his intention to adopt a system of educational sanctions against minors with criminal convictions, equating it to participation in providing “services” to society. A similar step would be taken against fathers of minors who “avoided their obligations.”
Marari sees these reforms and plans as an extension of the right-wing policies that characterize the Immigration Law Reform Project, emphasizing that “the reforms in the Immigration Law Project have proven that they are inconsistent with the Constitution and the values Are.” Of the Republic. “They won't solve the French's problems.”
Although the Constitutional Council has already expressed its objection to about a third of the articles in the controversial immigration bill, the Atal government will likely move forward with plans to reduce compensation for unemployment and social assistance grants and to review health coverage rights. .
Intentions to improve
These plans are not in line with the government's intentions announced years ago to allocate investments of 12 billion euros by 2030 to improve living standards in the suburbs.
In this regard, Ahmed al-Sheikh, director of the Arab Center for Western Studies in Paris, told Al Jazeera Net, “The most dangerous thing about the immigration law is that it takes French society away from its real problems and about “Stops me from thinking.” Ways to solve them, and these are related to law and other political struggles.”
Al-Sheikh further added in his observation, “Immigration problems are being exploited and used for purposes that go beyond the problem of immigration and immigrants, who end up being scapegoated twice, first times when he left his homeland under pressure from authoritarian regimes supported by European countries, and other times when he was used to cover up the real problems troubling French and European society, which… This led him to gradually Slowly takes away from the values of liberty, equality, fraternity, human rights and even rationality.”