The 2005 riots in France were sparked by the deaths of two teenagers who were electrocuted during a police chase in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Hundreds of youth roared with anger because a police chase had gone too far, and incited a riot that included attacking the police and vandalism in poor suburbs that were inhabited largely by immigrants from Maghreb, Algeria, and Morocco. Most of rioters were second generation Muslim immigrants. The riots had quickly spread to other towns. During the riots, more than 8973 cars were set on fire and 2888 people were arrested. In general, France was thought to tolerate ethnic minority. However, the riots forced France to confront the anger building for decades among Muslim immigrants who complain of discrimination and inequality.
After two world wars, France opened the door aggressively to greater numbers of immigrants with a great demand for labor, especially from Maghreb. Since the 1970s oil shock, however, its economic situation worsened and the government has started to support tighter immigration measures. Especially, since the 1980s extreme rightists have promoted anti-immigrants sentiments that claim that immigrants have a propensity for violent and that they steal jobs from French people. In addition, since the September 11th terrorist attacks, Muslim immigrants have been considered as a terror and people are concerned about public boundaries. Even though France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, the animosity regarding Muslim immigrants is increasing in the society.
Under the hostile circumstances towards immigrants, they feel socially isolated. The French government constructed housing projects in suburbs while increasing the immigrant population, but those areas became something of a ghetto where low-income immigrants live together. As the segregation between immigrants and mainstream society is becoming worse over time, they really feel frustrated economically and socially. Separating them from the society has led to discrimination and inequality against them. Immigrants who live in suburbs of Paris have, on average, lower incomes, education levels and employment rates than French people.
They are desperately underprivileged and outside mainstream society, and complaints and racial troubles caused by discrimination and inequality have been building up. Above all, while the second generation of Muslim immigrants who are born in France and are provided French education do not feel that they are belonging to a homeland, they cannot integrate into French society while being treated differently because they are an immigrant. It makes youth bear enmity towards French society. In the end, the deaths of two immigrant boys triggered the 2005 riots. They exploded with the anger of social and economical inequalities.
The French suburban riots in 2005 are painful moans and cries to be heard from immigrant youth who are the poorest and least powerful in French society. They have no hope or possibilities for the future in suburbs where youth unemployment, crime, and violence thrive. It is not just a problem in France. There have been similar riots across Europe, like in Greece, Italy and the UK. If immigrants are excluded from the mainstream of society and economically discriminated, riots will continue to occur. They should be accepted as real members of society and given fair opportunities and hope.
by Jeawon Moon