Monday, 10 September 2007

French clean up

When you think of Paris, images of the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles readily spring to mind and, for fans of the Rugby World Cup descending on the French capital, that's exactly how the French authorities want to keep it.

According to last week's Guardian, the French authorities have been accused of staging a "brutal" clean-up to hide the underbelly of Paris society from Rugby World Cup fans. This apparently includes razing shanty towns of Gypsies, moving rough sleepers in Paris and forcing out the homeless rag-and-bone men that work in the capital's flea markets.

Near the stadium in Saint-Denis, police this week are said to have cleared around 600 Romanian Gypsies from a shantytown where they had been living for more than a year because, heaven forbid, it would have been an the eyesore for corporate hospitality guests guzzling champagne and munching on foie gras nearby.

"France wants to pretend these people don't exist and make itself look beautiful instead of dealing with its problems," claims Malik Salemkour of the French Human Rights League.

Perhaps a more worrying reaction is that of a homeless man who restores objects found in bins and doorways in the chic areas of Paris to sell in the capital's flea markets:

"The police said I had to be out by Friday because of the rugby... I've always hated rugby, but I really loathe it now that people can be left with no shelter."

No doubt he's now an Argentinian supporter.

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