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French city removes benches in ‘anti-homeless sweep’

A man points out the location of a bench removed by the municipality in Perpignan, on January 5, 2015
A man points out the location of a bench removed by the municipality in Perpignan, on January 5, 2015 Raymond Roig, AFP

The southern French city of Perpignan has removed dozens of public benches over the past month in a bid to prevent “the nuisance” of people sleeping on them. Critics accuse the city of deliberately targeting the homeless.

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The removal of the benches comes just weeks after another French town, Angoulême in central France, mounted steel cages around many of its public benches to prevent drunks and homeless people from “monopolising” them. After a storm of criticism, however, the cages were “temporarily” removed on December 26.

In Perpignan, however, several dozen public benches have been completely removed in the past few weeks.

Pierre Barat, a Perpignan deputy mayor in charge of urban planning, confirmed that some of the city’s benches had been removed “because some resident associations had complained of the nuisance at night stemming from all sorts of people, not just the homeless”.

He said some benches would be replaced with concrete-style seats that would allow for a brief rest, but wouldn’t encourage people to occupy them for any longer periods of time.

Marc Maillet, the president of Frene66 –– a local branch of environmentalist group France Nature Environnement –– denounced the move.

“There were already very few benches in Perpignan, but in the past month, several dozen benches have been removed at night.”

Maillet said that in at least one case, residents living near some of the benches where homeless people used to gather, had filed a complaint. Those benches are among those that have been removed.

But Maillet added, “just because you don’t see the poor anymore doesn’t mean that poverty doesn’t exist anymore”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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