"For the politicians we are nothing," says a protester in France

Mado, a local of Marseille's Frais-Vallon neighborhood in southern France

Amine was 17 years old when his brother's severely burned body was discovered in a burning car's trunk.

He looks up at the dirty high-rise apartments that surround us and says, "Unfortunately, my brother fell into drugs early.

We are sitting in one of Marseille's most notorious neighborhoods and talking about his brother, who had been involved in drug trafficking prior to his death.

Amine, now 19 years old, grew up in this area on the Frais-Vallon estate, a sizable and impoverished social housing project marred by gang and drug-related violence in the city's north.

A couple of young men are lounging nearby on a wall. Here, drug dealers operate openly in the glaring afternoon sun.

Amine claims that for the children who are raised here and have little access to resources and even fewer opportunities, trafficking is a seductive option.

There aren't any other choices. There are no businesses coming here and offering to pay employees more than the minimum wage; instead, workers here are cleaners, security guards, or cashiers at supermarkets. No, we cannot be accountants, attorneys, or judges. ".

A residential block on the Frais-Vallon estate in Marseille
a house in Marseille's Frais-Vallon neighborhood.

He wasn't shocked by the recent riots, which also broke out in Marseille and left shops like a gun store looted and vandalized.

After demonstrations against the police shooting death of Nahel M, 17, in Paris, there were riots.

I can understand the young people's rage because we are constantly in the same mess and misery and nothing will ever change. Although I don't condone violence, I can understand it. ".

The riots and their aftermath have made clear how deeply so many French citizens felt abandoned, resentful, and angry.

We met Mado, a middle-aged resident of the estate, close to where there used to be a local police station.

Many people saw this as a tangible connection to the French state, and its demise was a somber symbol of a growing estrangement.

Mado says, "Living here is like living in a dumpster.". "It isn't secure. People urinate in the stairwells and elevators. We are irrelevant to the politicians. In reality, we are nothing. ".

Mourad, a man, speaks angrily as he informs us that there are rats all around this area.

"Not everyone has the same rights. Politicians claim there are no second-class citizens in the media, but this is untrue in practice. ".

But Amine may be the only person who has a clearer understanding of the severe divisions in French society or their effects.

He now works to prevent the estate's youth from becoming criminals while also helping the families of those who paid the ultimate price.

31 murders in Marseille were caused by drug trafficking last year. There have been 23 this year. The victims' average age was under 30 for two thirds of them.

The tragedy and the issue have both been acknowledged by the French authorities.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Benza district in Marseille, France, 28 June 2023
Just before the riots, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Marseille.

Marseille will be fixed, as President Emmanuel Macron promised two years ago. He unveiled a €5 billion ($5.4 billion) plan to address poverty and crime in the city.

Just before the riots, he returned to the southern port city to show his commitment.

At the start of a three-day visit to sites of regeneration projects, including a police station, a school, a prison, and a hospital, President Macron said, "Everything has to move faster.".

However, Amine, who has encountered him twice, has lost hope.

"When Macron visits, he does not come to listen to us; he comes to make announcements. ".

Even Marseille's mayor, Benoît Payan, acknowledges the need to unite his city.

"My town has been split between the wealthy and the poor for far too long. between those who are taken into account by the government and those who are not. ".

It's supposed to be a core French ideal. However, equality is now a goal in this situation.

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