Drug users in Paris will be able to inject themselves in a secure and monitored environment after a site near the city’s busy Gare du Nord was agreed by the city authorities.
France is set to open its first “shooting gallery” – a secure environment for taking hard drugs – in Paris, local officials announced on Thursday.
A site had been approved between the city’s Gare du Nord train station in the city’s 10th arrondissement and the La Chapelle Metro stop.
The arrondissement’s mayor, Rémi Féraud, told a press conference on Thursday that the gallery would be open “by the autumn”.
He stressed that the site was “sufficiently far from residential areas, schools and shops to not pose a serious risk of public disorder.”
Once functioning, the gallery will provide free needles to drug users in a sterile environment monitored by healthcare professionals.
Féraud’s deputy Myriam El Khomri added that the project was “aimed at reducing the number of people taking drugs in the street, in common areas of apartment buildings and other areas such as car parks.”
The area would be given a boosted police presence, she added, to prevent dealers from selling their wares in the proximity.
The site is owned by French rail operator SNCF, which has agreed with the city authorities to maintain the facility for three years.
‘Open air drugs market’
The area around the Gare du Nord is already plagued by drugs and petty crime.
And the plan to open a shooting gallery there has attracted considerable hostility from local residents’ associations, who fear the area, described as an “open air drugs market”, will be further degraded by the presence of a shooting gallery.
A snap vote organised by a local councillor in April found that of 300 residents who cast their ballot, 93 percent were opposed to the opening of the gallery.
Paris already distributes free sterile needles for drug users. Of the 300,000 handed out in 2012, half of them were from distribution points near the Gare du Nord.
Shooting galleries exist in a handful of European countries, including France's neighbours Switzerland and Germany.
In pictures : a shooting gallery in Bern, Switzerland
This shooting gallery opened in Bern in 1986, with the primary aim of avoiding the spread of contagious diseases through needle swaps. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
Hygiene is crucial to reducing the risk of contamination through drug injection. Users are provided with syringes, spoons and cleansing products. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
A few minutes after the room opens, a woman injects heroin (left) while another snorts cocaine (right). Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
Users must bring their own doses, as drug dealing is strictly forbidden at the centre. Security agents patrol the area in order to discourage dealing. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
An employee keeps an eye on the injection room. A CPR kit and oxygen are always at hand. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
A security guard checks the ID of users as they enter, to make sure they are at least 18-years-old and reside in the district of Bern. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
One room is reserved for smokers. This group is consuming crack cocaine. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
René, aged 43, started using drugs during his military service. The social workers at Bern’s injection centre encouraged him to go through rehab. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
Once a relationship of trust has been established, addicts can be encouraged to visit health services. Every day René fetches a dose of methadone, a heroine substitute, from a local health centre. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
The organisation that manages the injection centre also helps addicts apply for social benefits. René was therefore able to find cheap accommodation in the suburbs of Bern. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
One of the keys to successful rehab is to find work. Former addicts can be given a job preparing clean injection kits, which are available for free at the centre. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
Social and health workers point out how hard it is for drug addicts to quit. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil
Date created : 2013-05-30