authorities fear ‘hunger riots’

“Hunger riots”. Words are strong. These are the terms that the prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis, Georges-François Leclerc, is said to have used. Wednesday April 22, The chained Duck reported an email sent by the senior official on April 18 to his counterpart Michel Cadot, prefect of the Île-de-France region. In this email, Georges-François Leclerc dreaded “Hunger riots” and worried about a “Food risk” threatening the poorest inhabitants of Seine-Saint-Denis.

We have between 15,000 and 20,000 people who, between slums, emergency accommodation and the homes of migrant workers, will find it difficult to feed themselves ”, he was alarmed in these exchanges. “The underground economy, of rapine, the uber-economy and the collapse of the temporary work caused a significant and brutal fall of the incomes of the precarious of Seine-Saint-Denis “, also noted the prefect. Before concluding : “What was playable in one month of confinement will not be playable in two. ”

Multiple alert messages

The words of the prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis follow multiple warning messages on the food situation in the department.

In early April, an LCI journalist, William Molinié, recounted a conversation with a police officer posted in 93. “Don’t underestimate the risk of hunger riots. Families feed their children who are usually looked after in canteens. It sounds crazy, but it puts them in a financial difficulty that the authorities are struggling to imagine ”then explained the official.

Tuesday April 21, the LFI deputy from Seine-Saint-Denis, Clémentine Autain, also warned of the problem of food insecurity, reporting that “Queues to get food baskets keep growing”. You have people who are hungry today she continued. On site, some associations explain that they distribute 40% more food compared to an identical month. This Saturday, Stéphane Troussel tells France Culture that the department has gone from 1,500 to 4,500 meals made each day and that they are then made available to charitable associations.

Residents receive food parcels on April 22, 2020 in Clichy-sous-Bois. Ludovic Marin / AFP

Many aids implemented

In an interview with the Obs Thursday, the communist mayor of La Courneuve, Gilles Poux, was still driving the point home. “We are not immune to an explosion”, he explained, referring to the social emergency.

The mayor notes an “aggravation of the social difficulties” and describes the fall of the inhabitants’ incomes. “The small economy that allows families to keep their heads slightly above the water has collapsed. I’m talking about temporary work, home help, helping out from right to left, odd jobs not necessarily declared (…) All these little resources have completely disappeared ”, he explains. Even if elected officials do not mention it explicitly, the drug market is also affected by containment, causing a shortage in many regions. In 2013, the government estimated that the drug generated two billion euros of turnover per year in France.

To cushion the economic and social shock, especially in the poorest territories, several measures have been put in place in recent days. On Thursday, the government announced that it was allocating an additional 39 million euros for food aid for the poorest.

Residents line up to receive food parcels on April 22, 2020 in Clichy-sous-Bois. Ludovic Marin / AFP.

On April 15, the executive announced exceptional assistance for 4.1 million households, “the poorest”, in the words of the government. From May 15, households benefiting from the RSA, ASS (special solidarity allowance) and housing assistance will receive 150 euros, to which will be added 100 euros per child. Earlier, on April 13, the department of Seine-Saint-Denis had announced the implementation of exceptional assistance of 60 euros for 25,000 schoolchildren from modest families who no longer eat lunch at the canteen at noon because of confinement. Faced with the situation, the city of Bobigny even decided to cancel outright the payment of April rents which is made in early May.

Some elected officials would like to go even further. So, Clémentine Autain asked the government this week to regulate the price of basic necessities and increase the social minima for the most precarious. This Saturday on TF1, Alexis Corbière, also an LFI deputy from Seine-Saint-Denis, estimated that “State aid is not enough during this crisis”.

Seine-Saint-Denis in a few figures

As demonstrated by a study by INSEE in February, Seine-Saint-Denis (1.6 million inhabitants spread over 40 municipalities) is the department of all “records”. The poverty rate was 28% in 2017 (compared to 14% at the national level): it is the highest rate in mainland France.

According to INSEE, the department had around 85,000 RSA beneficiaries in 2018. Thus, more than 11% of the total population is covered by this service. This Saturday morning on France Culture, the president of the department, Stéphane Troussel, mentioned the figure of 100,000 beneficiaries of RSA in Seine-Saint-Denis. The department also has 32% of households renting social housing: this is the highest rate in France.

Another characteristic of the department, nearly 30% of the population of Seine-Saint-Denis is immigrant. This proportion places the department at the 1st rank in terms of percentage of immigrants in metropolitan France. The share of large families (with at least three children) reaches 18%. Again, Seine-Saint-Denis is in the lead.

See also – Containment: in Seine-Saint-Denis, “people are hungry”, warns Clémentine Autain


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