Virus lockdown raises tensions in poorest areas of France

Updated: Apr 27, 2020, 08:10 IST | Agencies | Clichy-Sous-Bois

With open air markets closed, supermarket prices skyrocketing, an out-of-work husband, two children to feed and another on the way, Diatite said even tomatoes are now too expensive. 'This is my only solution,' she said

Residents burned vehicles in the suburbs of and Aulnay-sous-Bois on Sunday. File pic/AFP
Residents burned vehicles in the suburbs of and Aulnay-sous-Bois on Sunday. File pic/AFP

Joining more than 1,000 others, Djemba Diatite stood for hours in line to feed her growing family, grateful for handouts of fruits, vegetables and soap. It was her first time accepting charity, but she had no choice. The pandemic has turned her small world upside down.

With open air markets closed, supermarket prices skyrocketing, an out-of-work husband, two children to feed and another on the way, Diatite said even tomatoes are now too expensive. "This is my only solution," she said.

Clichy-sous-Bois — where fiery nationwide riots started in 2005 — is just 23 km northeast of the French capital, but with its rows of housing projects, restless youth and residents teetering on the poverty line, it feels light years away.

The town mayor, seeing a looming crisis triggered by food shortages, sounded the alarm, and with scattered unrest simmering in impoverished suburbs, the French government announced a plan for urgent food assistance of 39 million euros for communities in need. "I feel the social crisis is growing with confinement," said Clichy-Sous-Bois Mayor Olivier Klein. The government will detail to parliament on Tuesday how it plans to pull the country out of the lockdown.

Boris to be back to work from Monday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work at 10 Downing Street in London on Monday. The 55-year-old has been recuperating at his prime ministerial countryside retreat at Chequers since he was discharged on April 12 and had put UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in charge as his deputy. Johnson is reportedly "raring to go" and will be back to an initially light work schedule from next week, starting with a meeting with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

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