Posted on January 3, 2007

Hundreds Of Cars Set On Fire In Annual Ritual For Poor Suburbs

Adam Sage, Times (London), Jan. 2, 2007

A car burns after a huge police operation involving 25,000 officers failed to quell one of the most entrenched new year rituals in France, with vandals — many of them children — setting on fire 313 vehicles throughout the country. The worst-hit region was Alsace, where 106 vehicles were set ablaze, including 28 in Strasbourg.

The attacks are seen as a product of tension on the suburban estates that are home to the bulk of France’s five-million-strong immigrant community. Most of the cars were burnt in areas with unemployment rates of up to 40 per cent. The national average is 8.7 per cent.

In the Seine-Saint-Denis département — one of the most troubled areas — officers detained three children aged between 10 and 12 carrying petrol cans. In Élancourt a car was driven into a children’s leisure centre and set on fire.

Police greeted with relief the total of vehicles set ablaze. Last year, 343 vehicles were reported burnt before the figure was later revised to 425.