Log-book: May 2005
Fatal blaze Palestinian prisoners Child protection Occupation of a building
22 people of whom 11 children died in a terrible fire that devastated in the middle of the night a hotel in Paris. There are many that are seriously wounded. It is one of the most serious fires ever to hit the capital.
The victims are African families in a precarious situation, living in an overcrowded hotel with no emergency exit, by the social services of the city of Paris.
I went on location and mingled with people gathering there spontaneously.
Still under the shock, we stay there silently.
Then came indignation and anger. " What an horror!' " We should not see things like that in 2005 in a Paris hotel ". " The poor are always the victims ".
For many years now, the association " Right to housing " of which I am a member, is asking to end accommodating the families in tourist hotels, a stopgap for public authorities, unsuitable, precarious and often dangerous. This way, hotel managers get richer and richer at the expense of the poorly housed. Many thousands of families are accommodated in such conditions in Paris ad Ile de France.
We demand the enforcement of the requisitioning of Paris vacant buildings law. This is an emergency.
The next day, again I went to the location where the blaze occurred. In the narrow street, there is an indescribable crowd. The slogans reflect the anger of the Africans: " Never again " " Enough is enough ". Television reporters and journalists with microphones try to interview me in this roaring crowd. If the Africans are without official papers, for my part I am without a word.
The solidarity committees with Palestine organized an evening debate on the question of the prisoners in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I am glad to be invited and to have the possibility to speak. We received a warm welcome. The meeting was held in a packed parish hall.
Palestinian food has been displayed on the tables.
The screening of the film " Stolen childhood " by Saed Adoni is remarkable and was a great opening for the evening. I am sitting next to Omar, the young chairman of the Palestinian students. He spoke of the present political situation in Palestine.
In my view, his speech was very pessimistic.
Yoav, an Israeli, is a conscientious objector. His testimony was courageous. Refusing to do his military duties and to be a soldier had a lot of bad consequences for him.
As for Lana, the chairman of the committee, she narrated all the suffering of the families of the prisoners.
On a population of 3 millions Palestinians, it can be said that every man or almost every man, at one moment of his existence, has been imprisoned in an Israeli jail. There are now 8000 prisoners, of which 128 woman and 380 children, 11 to 16 years of age.
The colonization attempts to smash the Palestinian resistance by massive and arbitrary imprisonments.
At the same moment, the 800km apartheid wall locks the Palestinian people in the largest jail in the world.
African families without official papers have occupied the premises of Unicef-France Parisian committee requesting support and protection from this organization devoted to protect the rights of the children.
These families are trying by this means to escape from the massive arrests that lead police headquarters to detain in prison people with no official papers. These families know that schools are not anymore a shelter for their children since the police do not hesitate anymore to enter these establishments to pick up the children.
A month ago a dozen men made a decision to go on a hunger strike. I go to visit them regularly. During a press conference, one of them declared: " I am going on a hunger strike for my children. They are the light of my life. I want them to lead a normal life and to have access to school like the other children. I am ready to die for them".
As I am writing these lines, the spokesman for the families telephoned me to tell me that the police have arrived in great number to seal off the area. This is a prelude to expulsion.
Occupation of a building
This beautiful Parisian building with 22 apartments is now being sold piece by piece, one apartment at a time by its new owner. The building bought in one block at 3 500 euros per m² will be sold at 6 000 euros per m². Tenants unable to pay this price will be forced to leave. They are threatened with expulsion.
Their situation is just as dramatic as that being experienced by those who live in inadequate housing.
That is why the families living in inadequate housing, before the police can act, have gathered in front of the building while I am climbing to the 5th floor with a few people responsible of the association for the right to housing.
Two homeless families have settled in vacant apartments in this building.
Real-estate speculation is aggravating the housing crisis. It adds to the problems of people living in inadequate housing the problem of the expulsion of tenants.
The threat is uniting the tenants. Everybody is speaking to everybody else and they are visiting each other. Solidarity is growing and is extending to those who are in inadequate housing. The same combat is uniting them.