Posted on March 30, 2012

French Reveal Loathing for ‘Violent’ Suburban Youth

The Local, March 28, 2012

Nearly 60 percent of the French say they distrust youth from the ‘banlieues’, France’s impoverished, immigrant-dominated suburbs, according to a new survey that has laid bare the country’s divisions.

“The results are extremely worrying,” Thibault Renaudin, national secretary of Afev, the youth organisation which published the poll, told The Local.

“Youths from the banlieues already suffer from discrimination, unemployment, and this suspicion just adds their difficulties.”

A poll conducted by Afev shows that while 75 percent of the French have a positive opinion of young people, 57 percent have a negative opinion of youths from improverished suburbs.

Banlieue youths are thought to break the rules, slip into petty crime and are viewed as violent and agressive.

Renaudin says French authorities and the media are partly responsible for this negative image.

“These youths only get attention when problems of security are addressed,” says Renaudin, “but they also do good work that needs to be promoted.”

The poll also reveals older generations have failed to give youths decent opportunities. “The very independent generation from the 70s struggles to make room for these youths that have been hard hit by 20 years of crisis.”

76 percent of the French are aware that youths don’t have the same opportunities as their elders.

Renaudin says the poll also reveals French racial divisions, given that many banlieue youths are from immigrant backgrounds. “They are always reduced to their origins, multiple, different and dangerous.”

“If your name is Mohamed and you come from the banlieues, it’s very difficult to find a flat in Paris,” he says. “And that’s unacceptable in a powerful country like France.”

The organisation Afev says youths are misunderstood, have been ignored and suffer from a lack of attention. “They feel neglected, like orphans, and feel they don’t have a role to play in society.”

Afev also says France should be inspired by initiatives in Scandinavian countries and give pupils and students from the banlieues a second chance. “That’s the problem with France’s elitist system, if you don’t fall into the mould, you’re out for good,” says Renaudin, adding that children who drop out at age 12 aren’t given second chances in school.

In the run-up to elections next month, presidential hopeful Socialist Francois Hollande has focused on youth initiatives, a “positive move”, says Renaudin.

“But we don’t need any more promises, we’ve had that, now we need action.”