'Les miserables' of the Champs Elysees

As millions of tourists flock Paris' famous avenue each year, homeless beggars are also a familiar sight.

    'Les miserables' of the Champs Elysees
    Nearly nine million people in France live below the poverty line [Al Jazeera]

    Paris, France - The iconic avenue of Champs Elysees in northwestern Paris paints a contrasting picture of France's wealth and poverty. 

    Each year, millions of tourists from around the world descend onto the 2-kilometre long street, which runs between the Place de la Concorde, the French capital's largest public square, and the historic 19th-century Arc de Triomphe.

     

    The famous avenue attracts locals and tourists to its fancy cafes, restaurants and shopping outlets.

    READ MORE: France's growing income inequality problem

    Last year, 500,000 people gathered on the Champs Elysees for New Year's Eve, according to the tourism office.

    A total of 36.5 million tourists visited Greater Paris in 2016.

    But among the wealthy shoppers, homeless beggars camping out on the sidewalks or outside shops with plastic cups are also a familiar sight.

     

    The Fondation Abbe Pierre, a housing advocacy group, said in its 2017 annual report that four million people are homeless, inadequately housed or without private housing.

    More than 140,000 people are homeless in metropolitan France, according to INSEE, France's national institute for statistics.

    Begging was legalised in France in 1994 under the conditions that children are not used, it is not done aggressively, and public order is not disrupted.

     

    From men, women to the elderly, beggars in Paris typically fall into the 25 to 60-year age bracket.

    Some are either living on the street or in temporary housing, homeless shelters; some are drug addicts and some claim to be Syrian refugees. They all struggle to make ends meet. 

     
     

    A lot of the beggars also belong to the nomadic ethnic group of Roma (alternately Romani, Sinti, Gypsy), who have been living in Europe for more than 600 years.

    Roma, who make up France's largest minority group, have faced a lot of discrimination over the years across the region. 

    More than 10,000 Roma were forcibly evicted by French authorities last year.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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