Car torchings and arrests in France surge on New Year’s Eve
France saw a spike in arrests on New Year’s Eve as well as an increase in the number of cars torched by black and Arab youths, a ritual in the country’s high-rise migrant suburbs.
Published: January 3, 2018, 7:47 am
The number of vehicles set alight on the night of December 31 rose from 935 a year ago to 1 031, while arrests rose from 456 to 510, the interior ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Some 140 000 security and emergency forces were deployed across France on New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve is not the only time when cars are torched. In July and August, particularly on Bastille Day on July 14th when migrant youths mark the annual national day with their own firework shows.
Authorities had previously underreported the number of torched cars on New Year’s Eve after it was discovered that a district-by-district breakdown was not only fuelling destructive competition between rival gangs, but also highlighted ethnic divisions.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the opposition party, said authorities were concealing their inability to contain the scourge by releasing “extremely hazy security records”.
Extra police are regularly deployed in sensitive areas on specific nights of the year to try to prevent the destructive blazes.
Rural areas of France are much less affected than urban areas.
Le Parisien newspaper reported that there were diverse reasons why migrant youths burn cars.
“Vehicle fires are often associated with a context of riots and urban violence. It can also be a ‘game’ to break the monotony, or it could be motivated by vengeance after a violent arrest. Or it could just be to get rid of a car used in a crime or as an insurance scam.”
But the custom is regarded as a litmus test of general social unrest in France which saw the most notorious spate of car burning in 2005 when hundreds of vehicles were torched.
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